According to James Roman, who wrote Chronicles of Old New York: Exploring Manhattan’s Landmark Neighborhoods, “On October 1, 1857, the residents of Seneca Village scattered, quietly and without violence, enabling the construction of Central Park.” On the other hand, Leslie Alexander uses her book African or American? Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861 to recount opposition from the community. In her chapter on Seneca Village, Alexander notes that “for those remaining few who did not comply, the police violently removed them in the following month.” Furthermore, she refers to an article published in the New York Daily Tribune in 1866, which states that “[the raid upon Seneca Village could] not be forgotten… many a brilliant and stirring fight was had during the campaign. But the supremacy of the law was upheld by the policeman’s bludgeons,” which implies that the Seneca Villagers were passionate about opposing the government. This conflict in opinion is not uncommon for historical events, but it is quite interesting, because they completely oppose one another. Alexander argues vehemently that Blacks were politically active during the antebellum period, and throughout her book, uses her tone to push this idea forward. This means that her presentation of Seneca Village could be a little dramatic or enhanced to further push her thesis.
My research suggests that Alexander’s view is probably the most accurate. The New-York Daily Tribune published an article titled “City Items: Central Park Lands,” on May 28, 1856, which explores the “commotion among property-holders within the proposed limits.” This article is key to understanding potential Seneca Village resistance, because there was a general mass of commotion from the people who were being kicked out to build Central Park. Although this article does not specifically state that Seneca Villagers were putting up resistance, it is important to understand that there would be a general sense of unity and anger, because Central Park would displace 800 acres worth of people. This refusal to move, as referred to in this article, can be traced back to “the awards made to them not [being] equal to what, in justice, they are entitled.” This is an issue which Seneca Villagers struggled with, meaning that this article could be alluding to resistance from Seneca Villagers.
According to another article published at the time from New-York Daily Times, dated July 9, 1856, Seneca Villagers “have been notified to remove by the first of August. The policemen find it difficult to persuade them out of the ideas which has possessed their simple minds that the sole object of the authorities making the Park is to procure their expulsion from the homes which they occupy.” These two sentences are extremely powerful, and necessary to understanding Seneca Village and the way it was viewed by Whites. Firstly, the tone of this article is degrading and dismissive of the Seneca Villagers, and that is evident in the diction being used. The author, who is unknown, describes them as “simple minded,” as if their beliefs are outlandish. Secondly, this article was published in early July of 1856, which was the year that Seneca Village was taken by eminent domain. A few months to relocate is a very short time to give Seneca Villagers, who had to be out by August 1st, 1856. This shows a lack of respect for the members of the community, who were being forced out in such a short amount of time, in a racist city, where it is hard to make their way. Lastly, the article states that “the policemen find it difficult to persuade them out of the ideas which has possessed their minds,” suggesting that there was interaction between the community members and the police which did not go in favor of the police, because they were struggling with them. Based on this primary source, our best bet in understanding what happened when Seneca Villagers were being expelled is that they put up a fight. The sources do not touch upon the scale of the resistance, but it shows that there is a contradiction to Roman’s statement of the Seneca Villagers leaving quietly.
However, this brings up a bigger question of why there is no actual documentation of this resistance. Because Seneca Village was so significant to the community members, why haven’t letters or some other form of documentation of this resistance survived? Why are there no police documents, especially since according to the Tribune article from ten years later, they were the ones who shut it down? Over and over again, the way that Whites have regarded and spoken of Seneca Village has been with a poor connotation, but even if historians had a biased account of the resistance, it would be better than just assuming what happened in terms of resistance from the community. Moreover, this is another reason why primary sources are vital for historical analysis, because now we may never know whether or not the Seneca Villagers actually resisted. They had a huge stake in the community; the fact that they were landowners gave them political power- once again, of the 13,000 Blacks in New York, 91 were qualified to vote, and 10 of those people were from Seneca Village, as of 1845. Based on this fact, a historian can assume that the case of resistance is the most plausible. Additionally, in Mario Maffi’s book, New York City: An Outsider’s Inside View, he references the New York Historical Society’s exhibit on Seneca Village, and says that “despite a wave of objections and protests, the village inhabitants were scattered,” which does not give the reader much insight on how the Villagers would have conducted this protest. Also, the book does not provide any footnotes on the sources that would lead to this conclusion, which is problematic for historians, because he does not state if the exhibit suggested this, or it was an interpretive leap which led him to such a conclusion.
 James Roman, Chronicles of Old New York: Exploring Manhattan’s Landmark Neighborhoods (United States: Museyon, 2010), 96.
 Alexander, African or American?, 173.
 Alexander, African or American?, 173.
 “City Items: Central Park Lands,” New-York Daily Tribune (New York, NY), May 28, 1856.
 “The Present Look of Our Great Central Park,” New-York Daily Times (New York, NY), July 9, 1856.
 “City Items: Central Park Lands,” New-York Daily Tribune.
 “The Present Look of Our Great Central Park,” New-York Daily Times.
 New York Times (New York, NY), August 17, 1866.
 Mario Maffi, New York City: An Outsider’s Inside View (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2004), 24.