Situated along an otherwise quiet and empty street, 194 Livingston Avenue in Albany, NY stands out from among the many wooden constructions that were erected during the urban renewal project of the 1970s. Constructed completely of brick which shows its age, it is easy to see this building is special; it has a story.
An African-American by the name of John Johnson built the home in 1847 in what was a working-class neighborhood . Johnson himself was the Captain of the Miriam, a sloop, which sailed up and down the Hudson River . During this period the Arbor Hill neighborhood was an integrated section of Albany.
The house came into the possession of Stephen Myers the same year it was built after he married John’s sister Harriet. A former slave himself, Stephen Myers was born at the turn of the 19th century in Hoosick, northeast of Albany and began his work with escaping slaves in 1831 . Following a series of failed newspapers he chose to encourage his former readers to subscribe to his close friend's, Frederick Douglas, newspaper.
After their moving into the residence, the home became a headquarters for the Underground Railroad . While it was extremely dangerous for slaves to escape from the South and to head North and freedom, it was also risky for people to aid them. This became increasingly dangerous in 1850 after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. In it it outlined provisions allowing for the arrest of runaways in free states and territories along with anyone aiding them . However, the Myers were not afraid of this. They openly housed runaways in an upstairs bedroom and were not hiding them in some secret room as many stops along the Underground Railroad did .
Today, 194 Livingston Avenue is home to a museum celebrating the heroic contributions of the Myers family.