Ethiop's New York
The World of William J. Wilson
A Negro Journalist of the 1850s
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William J. Wilson's New York, in Words and Images

You are invited to experience the City of New York through the eyes of an African American journalist of the mid-1800s. The 'Ethiop's New York' research project presents the intellectual, literary, social, and cultural landscape as portrayed in the newspaper writings of William J. Wilson.

Throughout the 1850s, William J. Wilson, writing under the pen name “Ethiop,” published regular columns in Frederick Douglass' Paper. These writings use humor, irreverence, and unabashed displays of erudition to tackle many of the critical issues facing mid-century Black communities, in the New York metropolitan area, and beyond. As such, his columns create a rich and detailed portrait of urban Black life in 1850s New York City, its struggles, its pleasures, and the people, ideas, and institutions that shaped it.


If you were an African American living in mid-19th-century New York City, what people, places, events, and ideas would shape your daily life? Ethiop's writing provides a window into the lives of the Black men and women of pre-Civil urban America.

Dancing for Eels at Catharine Market

What Would You Do?

Events and Activities in Black New York

Where Would You Go?

Sites & Settings of 1850s Black New York

Who Would You Know?

Mid-century Black New Yorkers

What Would You Read?

Writings that Shaped Black New York

What Would You See?

Images of Mid-century New York

How Would Others See You?

Black Portrayals in White Media


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