Jay Heritage Center


Striving for Freedom: The Jay Family and Slavery
School Programs

...to Chief Justice Jay...may be attributed, more to any other man, the abolition of negro bondage in [New York] state... --Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Herald Tribune

In 1790, New York State had the largest number of slaves north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Although John Jay and various members of the Jay family were slave owners, he and his sons were leaders in the fight to abolish slavery. Among their anti-slavery efforts, John Jay was a founder of the New York Manumission Society and served as its president, as did his elder son, Peter Augustus Jay. Both men encountered great resistance to their efforts to extend civil rights to African Americans.

Excerpts from original 1785 newspaper, the American Mercury that reports on a news item in another paper, The Hudson Gazette, detailing the formation of the Manumission Society JHC Archives

The names of several Africans owned by the Jays at their home in Rye are known, and some of their manumission papers have been located. Their stories, along with the Jay family's involvement in slavery and its abolition, make the Jay Heritage Center an ideal location for consideration of these issues.

Program I – Classroom Visit

Document Based Questions
A Jay Heritage Center educator will visit your classroom for a discussion of slavery in the North and resistance to it. The anti-slavery efforts of John Jay will be revealed as students examine primary source documents.
Fee: $3.00 per student
Program length: 1 class session

Program II – Museum Theater

Your class will come to the Jay Heritage Center where your students will participate in an interactive theater presentation performed by a professional cast followed by a discussion period. Set in 1813, Striving for Freedom examines the lives of two sisters, Clarinda and Mary, who were enslaved and owned by the Jay family. The program includes tours of the site-orientation exhibit, the 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House, and grounds. Teachers receive pre- and post-visit materials.
Fee: $5.00 per student
Program length: ½ day

Both programs are appropriate for grades 4 and up and meet the following learning standards for Social Studies: 1.1, 1.2., 1.3, and 1.4

We can accommodate groups as large as 130 students.

How to schedule a program –

(914) 698-9275 or jayheritagecenter@gmail.com

Performances are typically scheduled on Fridays.

Lunch space is available.

When signing up for Program II, teachers are encouraged to
schedule Program I as a pre-visit at a reduced rate.
Fee: $7.00 per student

Please note: A $50 non-refundable deposit is required for groups scheduling Program II.
The deposit must be received 2 weeks before your visit and
will be deducted from amount billed.

A reduced rate may be available for qualified students.

The Jay Heritage Center thanks Con Edison
for their support of these programs
and New York State Council on the Arts for its support of the programs' development and original production.

Read what people are saying about these exciting programs:

"…many times students are told slavery was in the South. Though this may be true, it was in many other places as well. This is our history, our families' history."
- 7th grade student

"I loved having the privilege to come such a special place…Thank you for helping to preserve some of our nation's history."
- 7th grade student

"I feel very strongly that the Striving for Freedom program had a major impact in the lives of our students and renewed their sense of purpose and value in education. I recommend this program for students and adults of all ages." – 11th grade teacher