9. The United Order of Tents is a secret society in Bedford-Stuyvesant at 87 MacDonough Street

United Order of Tents in Bedford-Stuyvesant

For decades, the United Order of Tents operated secretly in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and few people knew who they were or what they did. But facing declining membership, the United Order of the Tents Eastern District #3 held an event at the Brooklyn Public Library where they shared with the neighborhood about their mission. Its Eastern District headquarters is at a mansion at 87 MacDonough Street that the society bought in 1945. Since then, they have helped feed the hungry, raise children and care for the sick in the community.

The Tents are a Black, Christian women’s group that wears white and calls some members “queens” and all members “sisters.” It was originally founded in 1848 to provide aid to those escaping slavery. The name came from the tents that fugitive slaves used on the Underground Railroad. The United Order of Tents was founded by Annetta M. Lane and Harriet R. Taylor, who were both formerly enslaved. Members over 150 years later try to keep their legacy alive through their work, although they have faced some challenges in getting funding to restore their headquarters. Since they remained secret for so long, securing funding was difficult, but this funding has become more urgent as the headquarters deteriorates and as more potential buyers look to purchase the historic property.