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Remember Liss

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Remember Liss is a non-fiction book for students that tells the remarkable true story of an enslaved Black woman in 18th century New York whose life sheds light on the experiences of people of color in New York from the colonial period into the early republic.

By the time Elizabeth, known as “Liss,” was born into the household of the moderately wealthy Townsend family in the early 1760s, slavery had already been established in New York for over a century—and would persist under legal protection for almost seventy more. Remember Liss follows her long and complex journey towards freedom and examines the laws and customs that kept the institution in place for so long as well as the path to eventually abolishing slavery in the state. Her life reveals the often-overlooked history of slavery in New York and her involvement with Robert Townsend, a spy for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

Remember Liss allows readers a chance to explore the world of New York—and New York’s place in the world—during the 17th, 18th , and early 19th centuries. Prominent figures cross her path such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Jupiter Hammon, Benedict Arnold, John André and John Adams; and stories from America’s founding are re-examined, including the Culper Spy Ring, the Boston Massacre, the Sons of Liberty, the Battle of Long Island, and the Benedict Arnold treason plot. Remember Liss offers a new perspective to America’s founding, from the point of view of an enslaved Black woman seeking personal liberty in a country fighting for its own.