Posts Tagged ‘African Americans in New York City’

A lynching on a Greenwich Village street in 1863

January 14, 2013

ClarksonstreetsignAt 6 p.m. on the hot evening of July 13, 1863, William Jones, an African-American cartman, left his Clarkson Street home to buy a loaf of bread.

He couldn’t have known that a vicious mob enraged by the Civil War had begun a five-day rampage known as the Draft Riots. And Jones was right in their path.

The rioters were mostly working-class Irish immigrants. They were angry about a federal draft law that conscripted poor men while allowing their wealthier counterparts to buy their way out of the army. And they feared newly freed blacks would come to New York and take their jobs.

That morning, after destroying a draft office at Third Avenue and 47th Street, crowds of rioters dispersed around Manhattan.

Clarksonstreetlynching

They burned the homes of draft supporters, destroyed train tracks, beat wealthy residents, torched and looted the Brooks Brothers store, and attacked police and soldiers.

Their rage was directed especially toward black New Yorkers: they set fire to the Colored Orphan Asylum on Eighth Avenue and 44th Street, killed a black coachman on West 27th Street, and chased three black men who happened to be walking down Varick Street.

Clarksonstreetlynchingharpers2Those three got away. That’s when the mob targeted Jones.

“A crowd of rioters in Clarkson Street . . . met an inoffensive colored man returning from a bakery with a loaf of bread under his arm,” states an 1863 police report about the Draft Riots.

“They instantly set upon and beat him, and after nearly killing him, hung him to a lamp-post. His body was left suspended for several hours. A fire was made underneath him, and he was literally roasted as he hung, the mob reveling in their demonic act.”

A total of 119 people were killed; an estimated 11 of those were black. Finally on July 16, 6,000 soldiers hit the streets, and things went back to normal.

The city’s black residents did not. Twenty percent left the city for good.

[above: an illustration from the NYPL]

An 18th century slave market on Wall Street

March 28, 2011

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.

The first slaves, 11 African men, came to New Amsterdam in the 1620s.

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.”

By 1711, a slave exchange (the gazebo-like structure at right) was built on Wall Street at the East River.

“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.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,658 other followers