Tenement Museum slammed for replacing White Irish family story with FAKE 'woke' tale
The Tenement Museum has been slammed after it reportedly replaced the history of the white immigrants who once inhabited the building with stories about black and other races that never stayed there. Among several issues, one complaint that has attracted attention was scrapping the story of an Irish family, who resided at the building located at 97 and 103 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, with the false narrative of a black man, who actually worked near the building but most of the time stayed in New Jersey.
The museum was opened in 1988 and at the time, it was all about re-creating the immigrant experience of thousands of people who used to live there in the 19th and 20th centuries. Reportedly, the building was occupied by Irish, then German, then Jewish, and finally Italian immigrants. But there is no record claiming black people resided in the cramped quarters of the building in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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But now, the Tenement Museum has apparently decided to rewrite the building’s history by setting up one apartment to recreate how a black man named Joseph Moore along with his wife, Rachel, used to live there. Annie Polland, the museum president, said: “Basically, we're taking apart everything and putting it back together again. Ideas about race were important for understanding every family's experience, at every moment in time, in New York and on the Lower East Side.”
The initiative to change the historical narrative has angered Peter Van Buren, a former museum educator, who in an article for Spectator World said: “When I joined the Museum as an educator in early 2016, it was a small, elegant, good place. Inside a restored 19th-century tenement apartment house, it told the story of some of the actual all-immigrant families who had lived there, from inside their actual apartments.”
He continued, “Rule one for educators like me was ‘keep it in the room,’ meaning focus on specific individuals and how they lived in the room where you were standing. Over the years, these included Irish, Jewish, German, and Italian immigrants. There had been no Bangladeshis, Spaniards, or blacks; their stories lay elsewhere, ‘outside the room.’”
“After Trump’s election, everything changed. Our mission at the Museum went from telling real stories to ‘fighting fascism and destroying the patriarchy.’ Narratives were rewritten — so, for example, the Irish immigrants went from suffering anti-Catholic discrimination in Protestant New York to being murderers of innocent blacks during the 1863 Draft Riots. Never mind that the Irish family spotlighted by the museum lived there in 1869 and had no connection to the riots. We were on a woke jihad,” Buren noted, before adding: “It is a literal rewriting of history. What a shame that a place designed to help us remember wants to make us forget.”
However, Lauren O'Brien, the lead researcher on the Joseph Moore project, justified the inclusion of black people in the museum's history by claiming that the place where the building was erected was once a six-acre farm where a group of enslaved Africans successfully petitioned the Dutch East India Company for partial freedom and land. The researcher also reportedly discovered a letter from a woman named Gina Manuel addressed to museum officials while requesting them to include stories of black people.
The letter read, “When you are planning the museum, I beg of you, please, please don't forget them. Their spirit walks those halls and their bones lay in the earth there, and we remember them.”
Who runs the Tenement Museum?
The museum was founded by historian Ruth Abram and social activist Anita Jacobson in 1988 with an aim to explore “the uniquely American story of immigration and the rich, diverse landscape it continues to create.” Currently, Polland is serving as its president while Julie Davidson and Rachael Grygorcewicz are its Chief Development Officer and Chief Operating Officer respectively.
In June 2020, the Tenement Museum wrote in a Facebook post: “We give voice to the stories of outsiders, people who struggled in difficult circumstances to build lives in the face of indifference, prejudice, hatred, and racism. Black people have lived in the area we now know as the Lower East Side since the 1640s, raising families, earning livelihoods, and building communities.”
“Their struggles remind us that the fight for equality is never easy; it requires vigilance, dedication, and action. We tell their stories because history can help us confront injustice. Just as importantly, history helps us realize that we must challenge racial and social injustice in our own time,” it added.