Writing a Scrapbook #2: Obituary for Peter Guignon

Also in the Rhoda G. Freeman Manuscript and Research Collection at the Schomburg, Peterson discovered her second scrap – an obituary for Philip White’s father-in-law, her great-great-grandfather Peter Guignon. Signed “A.C.” for Alexander Crummell, a close friend of Guignon’s, the obituary describes Guignon’s days at the Mulberry Street School for colored children, where his classmates included James McCune Smith (one of the first black doctors in the U.S. and Philip White’s mentor) and Henry Highland Garnet. Not only did this second scrap lead Peterson to another family member who would become a part of Black Gotham’s story, it also offered a portrait-in-text of another significant member of a pre-Harlem community of black elites in nineteenth-century New York City. As her subsequent research would illustrate, these communities were distinct from those growing apace in other Northern cities like Boston and Philadelphia. Both Boston and Philadelphia possess an extensive paper trail of publicly visible black women activists working in the antebellum North. Analogous communities of women remain concealed in the culture of antebellum New York City, a difference that Peterson attributes in part to a particular focus in black Gothamites’ reform efforts: the restitution of male suffrage for free blacks, restricted by New York’s 1821 state constitution.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s