The demise of the Colored Orphan Asylum at Riverdale was a sad event in the history of an institution that dated to 1836. The founders and early managers were mainly women who sought to do God's will by caring for abused and forsaken black children. They took on this mammoth effort at a time when African Americans were shunned by society. Oppressive laws prohibited much of their daily contact with their fellow white residents unless they were in a subordinate position. The white women, many of whom personally abhorred the horrors of slavery and who wished to do God's will by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, did so at the risk of “unsexing” themselves in the eyes of their less Christian contemporaries. Men and women of means such as John Jacob Astor, R. H. Macy, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., William Jay, Anna Jay, Caroline Stokes, and many others contributed generously to the betterment of the orphan black child.
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