Dreaming of Timbuctoo

Dreaming of Timbuctoo tells the story of a visionary and pragmatic response to the harsh political and social climate in antebellum New York State. In 1846, only nineteen years after the abolition of slavery in New York, legislators reinstated a $250 property requirement for African American voters. Gerrit Smith, a reformer from central New York, responded with a plan as radical as it was risky. Smith resolved to give away 120,000 acres of mostly Adirondack wilderness to 3000 black New Yorkers. Influential leaders such as Frederick Douglass worked with Smith to promote the distribution of land while, in 1849, abolitionist John Brown moved to New York State with his family to help the homestead farm.

Dreaming of Timbuctoo includes a range of artifacts and objects that illustrate Smith’s land reform and voting rights plan, an arrangement that led to the settlement of the African American community in the Adirondack wilderness.

The exhibition combines unusual artifacts like John Brown’s surveying compass, Gerrit Smith’s writing chair, and an 1850s walking plow, with historic photographs, original research, and an interactive landgrant ledger to allow further investigation of Smith’s visionary plan.

Exhibition Name
Dreaming of Timbuctoo
Exhibition Type
Group Exhibitions
Payne Room
Feb 01, - Mar 02,
Dreaming of Timbuctoo is curated by Amy Godine, author, researcher, and University Without Walls instructor, Skidmore College.
Pattern by Nathan Bloom ’21
Inspired by the performance Honey Baby in the exhibition Janine Antoni & Stephen Petronio: Entangle
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.