What was The New York African Society for Mutual Relief (NYASMR)? It was and early Black Americans aid association that gave critical support to the black communities in New York.
Founded in 1808, in New York City was charitable and cooperative organization designed to serve the everyday needs of the free black community in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The organization founders included William Hamilton, William Miller, along with other prominent Black American men in New York City. The New York African Society for Mutual Relief (NYASMR), quickly became black New Yorker’s leading secular association and it help to guide the organizational life of the black communities.
On June 6, 1808, the society had its first meeting. The constitution was adopted and officers were elected. William Hamilton was to be president of the organization, Daniel Berry was named treasurer, Henry Sipkins was named secretary and Adam Carman his assistant, while Daniel Brownhill, Adam Ray, James McEwen, Henry Rouse, Samuel Charley, Richard Tankard, Samuel Clause, Benjamin Slighter, and Peter Vogelsang served on the first Standing Committee.
The NYASMR operated out of a building the leaders purchased on Orange Street (now Baxter) in southern Manhattan, where it held meetings and rented out space in order to expand its budget. The building also helped the organization fulfill its abolitionist goals. A secret trap door in the building served as a gateway to freedom for slaves who had escaped from the south. Like other mutual aid societies, the NYASMR collected funds to assist the sick, widowed, and the orphaned, and to help defray burial costs. The Society also provided financial support for black schools. Membership was open to men of “good moral character,” who paid annual dues and met regularly to discuss the needs of Manhattan’s Black American community. Ninety-seven men were initiated into the NYASMR in its first year. While promising to meet monthly, pay dues, and assist members, their widows, and children when in need, these men made the society more than a self-help organization. The NYASMR also served as a model for the establishment of several other Black American fraternal and philanthropic organizations that tended to a variety of needs and interests among black New Yorkers, including the Brooklyn African Woolman Benevolent Society, founded in 1810, and the Wilberforce Philanthropic Association established in Manhattan two years later in 1812. The Wilberforce Association was an early literary society.
The New York African Society for Mutual Relief (NYASMR), lasted 57 years, closing the door on the society in 1865.