New-York Historical Society Exhibit on Slavery May Be Greeted with Controversy

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The $5 million exhibition, "Slavery in New York," will open to the public on Oct. 7. The show is potentially controversial. Steven H. Jaffe, a former senior projects historian at the society who worked on plans for a show on slavery beginning in 2001 but was later dismissed with other staff members, said the society had"gotten really fine scholars on this subject as advisers." He added:"But the question is how the black communities in and around New York are going to respond when an institution that is perceived as white and patrician starts preening about 'what we're going to tell you about slavery because you don't know it' - when a lot of people in the black community have known this for a long time." James Horton, a much-praised historian who was the adviser to"Slavery and the Making of America," the recent PBS documentary series, disagreed.

"I do not believe that many blacks know this story," he said, adding:"This is not a case of having an elite institution set up an exhibit on slavery without guidance. This exhibit is based on exhaustive research."

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