Stephen and Harriet Myers House

Next Stop on the Underground Railroad

I Bet Your Family Isn’t Making This Much Noise

Stephen Myers was a slave who was freed at the age of eighteen. When he was freed, he worked many odd jobs to earn some money and take care of himself. In 1827, Myers married his wife Harriet and they had four children together. After he was freed, Myers worked as a grocer and steamboat steward, but he had a passion for journalism and took on that career path in 1842. He began his journalism career by editing abolitionist newspapers and writing a few articles for the newspapers that would allow him. Although passionate about journalism, Myers ventured out into new territory.

Four years into his marriage, Myers took on a new role. He became active in the African American community in Albany. Many others such as himself moved to the Arbor Hill area of Albany, which was a racially integrated working class neighborhood; Myers, like many other African Americans who moved into the area, believed that others should have the opportunities that they had and although the neighborhood was not the best, they wanted to see people like themselves make it to the working class. Myers was a prominent figure in trying to obtain rights for blacks. While being a member of the established African American community, he was a strong advocate for education and places to work within the African American community; he fought for things such as the right to vote and the right to receive not just any form of education, but a good one. Although he was an advocator for free blacks, he felt even stronger about those that were still enslaved and continued to help them the best way he could. This was done by writing and helping slaves escape.

Myers’s embarked on his newspaper publishing journey by joining The Elevator. His stay with that newspaper did not last very long and he later joined the Northern Star Association. The Northern Star Association provided assistance to slaves that had escaped or attempted to. Myers wrote for their newspaper, which was called The Northern Star and Freedmen’s Advocate. The newspapers focused on issues of abolition and education and employment for African Americans.

Although Myers fought for the abolition of slavery and for equal rights for blacks, he was also a family man. As his wife began to have more children, they decided that they needed to move from their Arbor Hill residence. The couple began to look for a place that was suitable for them as well as suitable for Myers to continue his work. The Stephen and Harriet Myers home was built in 1847 by an African American man by the name of John Johnson. Working class people predominantly lived in the neighborhood, where the house was located; the house is said to be an Albany townhouse due to its rear stairwell, 180 degree turns and the way the windows drop. The house resembles many others in the Troy area, although no known architect is named.

Myers and his family moved into the house soon after it was built and began using it to help those in need almost instantly. A few years after they had already been living in the house, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. This made things more difficult for those trying to escape slavery and those that were helping them. The Fugitive Slave Act came with rewards for those that abided by it and penalties for those that chose to disobey. If someone was caught helping a slave escape, the person was likely to receive jail time or a fine for the loss of “property”. Whites who armed slaves could be executed; there were instances in the South where anyone, whether white or black, who assisted a fugitive could face death. Although Myers was well aware of the penalties he could face if he continued to offer his assistance, he still helped slaves to escape; from his house, fugitives traveled west, hoping to reach Canada. Canada was the destination for many slaves because of the Fugitive Slave Act; this law meant that escaped people were not free anywhere in the United States but if they were able to reach Canada, the promise of freedom was there and that was what they aspired for.

Street Address:

194 Livingston Avenue [map]

Official Website:

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stephen_and_Harriet_Myers_House&oldid=707526308.

Cite this Page:

A. Afriyie, “Stephen and Harriet Myers House,” Albany Walks for Health, accessed August 21, 2019, http://www.albanywalksforhealth.com/items/show/109.

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