Slavery in New York City? It thrived from Dutch days through British rule. By the 1720s, one out of every five residents was owned by another.
Along with other enslaved men and women who arrived from Africa or the Caribbean after them, they cleared fields, built roads, and toiled as domestics.
The Dutch (shown in this Howard Pyle painting at a 17th century slave auction) extended liberties, such as the right to own property and even win partial freedom, explains New York: An Illustrated History, by Ric Burns and James Sanders:
“Under the much harsher conditions of English rule, however, even these slender prerequisites disappeared. Henceforth, all slaves were considered chattel—forever—and the few that were freed, permanently barred from owning land or houses.”
“Each morning, African slaves could be seen making their way to the market at the foot of Wall Street, where while waiting to be rented out as day laborers and domestic servants they exchanged news with free blacks, and looked for every chance they could to break free,” write Burns and Sanders.
Throughout the 18th century, slave revolts kept tensions high. The British promised freedom to any slave who fought for the crown during the Revolutionary War, and the practice was officially outlawed in 1827.
Tags: African Americans in New York City, New Amsterdam slavery, New York slavery, New York: An Illustated History, Slave Exchange Wall Street, slave market New York City, slaves in colonial New York, Wall Street history