NEW YORK, N.Y., February 16, 2005 — New York Life Insurance Company announced the launch of a new unique resource, the Melrose Interactive Slavery Environment, as part of the educational Web site, www.slaveryinamerica.org , designed to help secondary-level teachers improve and expand their teaching of the slavery era. The new Melrose Interactive feature allows online visitors to virtually participate in a day in the life of a slave on the Melrose estate, a pre-Civil War estate located in Natchez, Mississippi.
"We are proud to provide educators with a tool that can enhance and extend their teaching of this significant and painful period in United States history," said Sy Sternberg, chairman and chief executive officer, New York Life Insurance Company.
"The Melrose estate is one of the greatest of the South's pre-Civil War houses that is still intact," said Kathleen Jenkins, head ranger at the Melrose Historical Park. "One of the problems associated with inviting visitors to a site such as this is that the physical world of the slaves has disappeared, unlike the big houses of the slave owners. For that reason, tours often focus more on the slaveholders than on the enslaved. This online environment turns the usual tour inside out, presenting the world of the estate owners almost as a sidelight on the lives of the enslaved."
"There is nothing like the Melrose Interactive Environment anywhere online," said Professor Ronald L.F. Davis of California State University, Northridge, and the primary historical advisor to the site. "This will give kids a vivid sense of what it meant to be enslaved in antebellum Mississippi."
As the online visitor moves from structure to structure on the Melrose estate and from room to room in the main house, he or she hears voices representing the enslaved people who worked there, explaining the work associated with each location. These voices are provided by a group of actors headed by Meschach Taylor (of television's "Designing Women," "Dave's World"). The real-life Melrose estate was the home of the McMurran family, who owned all or part of five plantations. The Melrose estate is administered as part of the Natchez Historical Park by the U.S. National Park Service.
In addition to the Melrose Interactive component, the site, www.slaveryinamerica.org , features "Roads to Freedom," another unique interactive exhibition, which allows students to explore the routes most frequently used by enslaved men and women seeking liberty. The Web site, one of the largest educational Web sites on American slavery, is inspired by and complements the "Slavery and the Making of America" documentary, which aired on PBS on February 9 and 16.
"By sponsoring the PBS series 'Slavery and the Making of America' and supporting the creation of this comprehensive educators' Web site, New York Life hopes to broaden young Americans' knowledge and understanding of this important chapter in our nation's past," added New York Life's Sy Sternberg.
The Web site also provides resources that were previously unavailable or difficult to access, with primary-source documents, images, slave narratives, and spoken narration. The exhibition conveys the enormity of the challenges slaves faced and the intelligence, courage and persistence with which they attempted to surmount them. History, geography, literature, and narrative/biography sections offer essays, lesson plans, book lists, classroom activities, and other materials developed by teachers and for teachers with today's students in mind.
"Slavery and the Making of America" chronicles the institution of slavery in the United States from its origins in 1619 with the arrival of slaves in New Amsterdam to the Reconstruction era. New York Life is the exclusive sponsor for the PBS documentary, a four-part program that chronicles the development of slavery through historical examination and individual narrative.
Thirteen/WNET New York has a companion site to the "Slavery and the Making of America" series, www.pbs.org/slavery where visitors can learn more about slavery through the powerful oral histories of former slaves.
New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States and one of the largest life insurers in the world. Headquartered in New York City, New York Life's family of companies offers life insurance, annuities and long-term care insurance. New York Life Investment Management LLC provides institutional asset management and retirement plan services. Other New York Life affiliates provide an array of securities products and services, as well as institutional and retail mutual funds.
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|New York Life Launches Unique Interactive Feature on its Educational Web site, www.slaveryinamerica.org|