Before the restoration, the Lefferts house catered mostly to families; children could plant potatoes, harvest flax, play with reproduced artifacts and see how linen was woven. Although, more than 20 years ago, the museum began to acknowledge that the Leffertses owned slaves, it did not identify who, for instance, might have stitched the fine linen garments the family wore. (A reproduction of a man’s shirt from the early 19th century is in the house.)
“The viewpoint now,” Carrasco said, speaking of future exhibits and visitor information, “is this is a person that was owned by the Leffertses, that lived here in Brooklyn and who’s probably buried at the Flatbush African Burial Ground.”
ReImagine Lefferts and its partners, including the Flatbush African Burial Ground Coalition and the Weeksville Heritage Center, envision the museum as becoming a community center as well, hosting speaker panels, symposiums and meetings on neighborhood issues. The initiative is also surveying city residents to ask what they would like to see inside the house, with a view toward installing new exhibits in 2024. To make the museum still welcoming to families, Monaco said, the displays will not focus on oppressed people’s suffering, but on “their legacy and the resilience of their stories.”
Shanna Sabio, who is on the board of the burial ground coalition and an adviser to ReImagine Lefferts, said an installation might ask young visitors to consider what they might have done at the time to help Isaac, an enslaved man who escaped the Lefferts farm after less than three months, taking along family members who were in bondage nearby.
“Allowing people to see themselves as possible agents in the shaping of history,” Sabio said, can “make history more personal.”
Another project adviser, George Stonefish, a Lenape elder and organizer, would like the museum to teach how much the Dutch residents depended on Indigenous people for sustenance. He has suggested planting the so-called three sisters — corn, squash and beans — in the Lefferts garden and inviting the public to the museum for powwows and artisan demonstrations that highlight Lenape culture.