WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Oscar-winning movie 12 Years a Slave reminded Americans that a free black man living in the North in the 19th century could still be enslaved.
Far fewer people may know of a dramatic story that unfolded in Rockland — one the village of Nyack and the Toni Morrison Society believe deserves greater recognition.
Cynthia Hesdra was born in Tappan in 1808, the daughter of a man who may have operated a grist mill by Sparkill Creek. It's not clear if Hesdra was born into or sold into slavery. Her husband, Edward Hesdra, eventually bought her freedom. After moving to Nyack from New York City, the couple, now successful in business and landowners, sheltered escaped slaves at their home at corner of Main Street and Route 9W, providing a safe house or two along the Underground Railroad.
For more information on the Bench by the Road Project, click here.