School Tours & Visits

“The struggle to maintain a democratic society is one of our greatest challenges we face as a people. One important function of the Jay Heritage Center [is] to remind Americans of the struggles of the framers of the constitution and the courts and to connect those struggles with present day concerns about civil rights and civil liberties. The Center thus becomes a forum for creative problem solving and the exploration of difficult issues that effect each of our lives.”
Gretchen Sullivan Sorin

“I will never forget what I observed in the students’ faces on Friday — they were bright, enthusiastic, and absorbed in learning on multi-levels – using all senses, and brains clearly engaged. It was a thrill for me to see their first hand discovery of our history.”  Participating Rye Neck Educator

“Striving for Freedom” is an acclaim-winning, site-specific interactive theater program developed by the Jay Heritage Center for schools. This tableau performance fits well into any 5th through 8th grade Social Studies curriculum but can also be adapted for high school students, adults,  and community organizations.

It examines the often ignored existence of slavery in the Northern States. Created specifically for our landmark property where enslaved families are known to have lived, worked and been freed, it tells the story of the reunion of two sisters Mary and Clarinda who were separated when young and owned by different members of the Jay family.

The program is offered for FREE to all schools. We are enormously grateful for funding which is provided in part through a grant by Con Edison and school bus transportation monies from NY State Parks.

“I wish to see all unjust and all unnecessary discriminations everywhere abolished, and that the time may soon come when all our inhabitants of every colour and denomination shall be free and equal partakers of our political liberty.”
March 24, 1785

Despite these noble public words, Jay’s own personal actions ranged from inconsistent, to callous to abhorrent. His actions and the actions of siblings, in-laws and his wife Sarah Livingston cannot be excused. Though he eventually legally abolished slavery in New York, it would fall to his children, including his sons Peter Augustus and William, and his grandson John Jay II, to do more to secure justice for enslaved people and advocate for voting suffrage for freed African Americans:

“[W]hy sir, are these men to be excluded from rights which they possess in common with their countrymen? What crime have they committed for which they are to be punished?”  – Peter Augustus Jay at New York’s 1821 Constitutional Convention


Educational Programs from the Jay Heritage Center

Striving for Freedom: The Jay Family & Manumission

Before You Visit

For more information on the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail, access the brochure here

Program: Museum Theatre

Your class will come to the Jay Heritage Center between 9 and 10am and participate in a 45 minute interactive theatre performance with professional SAG actors followed by a 15 minute discussion period.  Set in 1813, the vignette examines the lives and resilience of two sisters, Clarinda and Mary, enslaved by the Jay family.

Following the play, students will be split into 3 smaller groups that will rotate through discrete parts of the Jay Estate. Segments include tours of the 1838 Jay Mansion and hands-on access to original Paleo-Indian artifacts discovered on the estate; students will view primary documents including an authentic manumission document and learn about Caesar Valentine, the inspiration for the first major African American character in an American novel written by James Fenimore Cooper. Lastly, students will walk the landscape and be introduced to invasive and native species identification.  The day will conclude between 12:30 and 1:00pm and allows for a lunch break.

Teachers receive pre- and post-visit materials. Seating is amphitheatre style in the Carriage House and will follow Covid-19 guidelines.

Plan Your Trip

This Program is FREE. New York State schools may also qualify for FREE transportation to the Jay Estate through a Connect Kids to Parks grant administered by NY State Parks. Learn more here

Step 1: Teachers and schools interested in seeing and participating in this program can contact Meredith Slater at (914) 698-9275 or We’ll mail a folder of study materials and you can request a date. Fridays are ideal but other weekdays work too.

Step 2: Apply for your transportation grant here and confirm the date of your visit.

Step 3: Enjoy your Field Trip! On the same day, we will sign your transportation grant form and once submitted to NY State, you will be reimbursed for the cost of your buses.

Help Us Expand Our Impact!

Goal: Every Friday, School Kids at the Jay Estate

If we had the funding, we would have school visits every Friday of the calendar year. Help us make that happen by donating to our team effort! Donate here.