Tue, 5 June 2018
Before there was Rikers Island, there was Blackwell's—today known as Roosevelt Island. Historian Stacy Horn's newest book Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York is the first in-depth look at its dark past. In addition to a penitentiary, the small strip of land housed an almshouse, mental institution, and a number of hospitals for the poor—which, as one can imagine, lead to disturbing outcomes for the city's most disenfranchised people. From annual reports of the Women's Prison Association to an unpublished autobiography of a survivor of the NYC draft riots, Horn walks us through some of her findings from the NYPL archives used to write this chilling story, and how it sheds light on the same issues of today.