Hidden Heritage

Susan Stessin-Cohn is an archivist at Historic Hugenot Street in New Paltz, NY. One day she stumbles upon a 200 year old document that leads to her discovery of a 19th century mystery of secret identity.




This is the archive room where Susan does her research. She handles the 200 year old letter with great care using white gloves and a special tool to turn the pages.



On the left is the photo of the fragile document that details the accusations against Reverend Murphy.







Slavery in New York:  Professor A.J. Williams-Myers from University of New Paltz discusses Susan's research. When was slavery outlawed in NY state?

Passing for White: How common was it to pass for white?

A Sad Story:  What can we learn from Reverend Murphy's story?

Learn More

Reverend James Murphy is featured in The Missing Chapter: Untold Stories of the African American Presence in the Hudson Valley an online exhibit on hrvh.org.


Armstead, Myra B., ed. Mighty Change, Tall Within: Black Identity in the Hudson Valley. New York: State University of New York P, 2003.

Williams-Myers, A.J. On the Morning Tide: African Americans, History and Methodology in the Historical Ebb and Flow of Hudson River Society. New York: Africa World P, 1999.




This story has been condensed and edited from a longer interview.

Interviewee: Susan Stessin-Cohn

Recorded: June 9, 2008 and aired on January 16, 2009 on WAMC

Time Period: 19th century

Subjects: Reverend Murphy, African American history, slavery, racism, Historic Hugenot Street,  New Paltz, New York, Ann DeWitt Bevier

Collection: StoryScape Radio Program

Credits: Photos by Sound and Story

Production: Produced by Eileen McAdam and narrated by Jim Metzner

Funded by: New York Council for the Humanities

Some Rights Reserved: This production including audio, text, and images, may be used for educational and research purposes as long as it is not altered in any way and is credited to The Sound and Story Project.

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