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The Haverstraw African American Connection (HAAC) started with the discovery of an unusual brick with a cross on top, found by Virginia Norfleet who was building a home on Clinton Street in Haverstraw, NY. 


The brick turned out to be the cornerstone of what used to be the African Methodist Episcopal Bethel Church, founded by slaves and free blacks in 1846. The church was Rockland's first house of worship for blacks. 


Additional research led to the discovery that African-Americans had come to Haverstraw much earlier than previously documented.  Africans were brought by the Dutch as slaves in the 1600s. A federal census from 1790 (10 years before slavery was outlawed in New York) documents 238 slaves in Haverstraw.

"Once I realized that was the cornerstone of a church and that we were here prior to the brickyards and obviously contributed to society and the local community, I wanted to know more about the people..." -Virginia Norfleet

The findings prompted the creation of the African American Memorial Park which honors African-American contributions in Haverstraw and Rockland County.

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