People of Lowly Life: Early Persons of African American Heritage in Washington County, N. Y. chronicles the emergence of the African American population in Washington County from an early slave population here, and in the adjoining regions, who established families and became part of the communities of the county, some for well over a century.
From the first early free families in 1800 to their last records in 1940, the individuals, families, migrants and fugitives who lived in the towns of this rural county are traced from their origins in early New York’s slave population into the present day. Where they came from, where some of them went, the places that they called home within the county, and what they did during the time they lived here are covered in a mixture of history, narration and genealogy into the late 20th century.
While the earliest record of their lives here ends in the county history with the early slave births and manumissions, this volume attempts to take up their story again, and bring it forward, to illustrate that here was a place that generations called home. Never a very large number, a few of these families nevertheless left a personal record that continued for several generations. These have been added to by fugitive slaves who came here and first settled in the 1840s, such as the Manyard and Salter families, Reconstruction migrants, and early 20th century members of the Great Migration. Their legacy includes Rev. Lemuel Haynes, the first African American Congregationalist minister in the United States; Solomon Northup, the victim and narrator of Twelve Years A Slave. Tracing the course of these individuals and families from a slave legacy to the first steps upon self- determination, a microcosm of the African American experience in America is depicted here, in one of the smaller rural counties in the northeast part of Upstate New York.
Ken Perry is an independent researcher of local history and paints landscapes of Washington County. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and lives in Greenwich, New York.