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The African Burial Ground and History of Slavery in New York City


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At one point, New York City was second only to Charleston in the number of slaves. When Wall Street was actually a defensive wall, half-freed blacks formed a community north of it, outside the wall. They were denied, by law, from burying in the city so had their own burial ground. What happened to it?

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The African Burial Ground and History of Slavery in New York City

  1. 1. The African Burial Ground National Monument and the history of slavery in New York City.
  2. 2. Slavery in New York City We think of the south when we discuss slavery in America. In 1703, New York City had the second highest percentage of slaves in the colonies. After Charleston, South Carolina. More than 42% of households in the city had slaves.
  3. 3. Slavery in New York City Ongoing slavery began in New York City in 1626, when eleven Africans were unloaded from a Dutch ship. In 1644, these eleven petitioned the director general of the colony for their freedom. The colony was skirmishing with Native Americans and the fear was that the slaves might run away and fight with them. So they were granted partial freedom. They could purchase land and earn a wage from a master, and eventually earn full freedom. However, their children would be born into slavery. By 1644, those eleven, and others attained half- freedom.
  4. 4. Slavery in New York City They lived north of Wall Street. Which was named thus because there was a wall there. The defensive barrier for New Amsterdam. They were settled there to be a further barrier against Native American attacks.
  5. 5. Slavery in New York City They settled near Fresh Water Pond, also known as Collect Pond. You can see precursors to present day streets in lower Manhattan.
  6. 6. Slavery in New York City More slaves were being brought into New Amsterdam as the need for labor increased. These came from both Africa, primarily Angola, and the Dutch West Indies. In 1642, a French privateer, the La Grace, off-loaded ‘Spanish Negroes’ that had been captured from a Spanish ship. The men claimed to be freemen, but because they were black, they were sold as slaves.
  7. 7. Slavery in New York City In 1644, the English gained control of New Amsterdam. They continued to import slaves to New York City. In 1708, the New York Assembly passed the Act For Preventing The Conspiracy of Slaves. This prescribed capital punishment for any slave who attempted to, or did murder, their master. This was partly in response to the murder of William Hallet III and his family in Queens.
  8. 8. Slavery in New York City In 1711, a formal slave market was established on Wall Street, where it meets the East River. It was active for 51 years, until 1762.
  9. 9. Slavery in New York City In 1730, in fear of slave insurrection, the New York Assembly banned the gathering of more than three slaves unless under the direct supervision of their masters. Punishment for violating this was whipping, not to exceed forty lashes for each offense.
  10. 10. Slavery in New York City The Conspiracy of 1741: This was a supposed plot by poor whites and slaves to revolt. The city’s population at the time was 10,000. 2,000 of those were slaves. The War of Jenkins Ear, between England and Spain had begun in 1739 and lasted until 1748. This reduced the number of troops in New York City and the gentry felt threatened. Rumors of insurrection was rampant.
  11. 11. Slavery in New York City The Conspiracy of 1741: Much like the Salem Witch Trials, a wave of paranoia swept the city after several fires. A white indentured servant, Mary Burton, testified there was a cabal. Slaves and poor whites were arrested. They often implicated others to save themselves. 17 blacks and 4 whites were hanged. 13 blacks were burned at the stake. Many more were deported. Executions occurred at the north end of the city near Chambers Street. With her reward, Mary Burton was able to buy her freedom from indenture.
  12. 12. Slavery in New York City During the Revolution, African-Americans fought on both sides, but predominantly the British, because they were promised their freedom for their service. Since the British occupied New York City for the duration of the war, blacks fled to it and their population grew to over 10,000 and it was a hub of free blacks. Two were escapees from George Washington’s plantation in Virginia.
  13. 13. Slavery in New York City The Treaty of Paris required all property, including slaves, be left in place and returned to their owners. The British commander in New York City refused to comply. He had over 3,000 black loyalists transported to Nova Scotia. A group of those then went from Canada to Africa to found Sierra Leone.
  14. 14. Slavery in New York City In 1781 the New York State legislature promised freedom to slaves who had fought for the three years for the colonists. The African Free School was founded; the first formal education for blacks in North America. By 1790, one-third of blacks in New York were free. In 1799, the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery was passed. It didn’t free any current slave. However, any slave child born after 4 July 1799 was free; except they had to serve an indenture (males to age 28 and females to age 25).
  15. 15. Slavery in New York City African-Americans fought in the War of 1812 and defended New York. In 1817, the state freed all slaves born before 4 July 1799 to become effective in 1827. On 5 July 1827, African-Americans in New York celebrated emancipation with a parade. They chose the 5th because the 4th was not meant for blacks, as Frederick Douglas would lately famously say.
  16. 16. Slavery in New York City Despite freedom, African-Americans were mostly disenfranchised from the vote until the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870.
  17. 17. The African Burial Ground National Monument In the early days of New York City the primary cemetery was the north graveyard of Trinity Church. However, after Trinity purchased the land at Broadway and Wall Street, they had a law enacted in 1697 that no Negro could be buried on their property. The “Negro Burial Ground” was established outside the city limits near their community at Collect Pond. (Note, this area, after the pond was filled in, became the infamous Five Points neighborhood). An image is on the next page. Note that it’s outside the city stockade.
  18. 18. The African Burial Ground National Monument
  19. 19. The African Burial Ground National Monument This cemetery was closed in 1794. Eventually, the area was slated for development and the burial ground covered with landfill. Occasionally, bones would be found as new structures were built, but this was more a matter for curiosity seekers and souvenir collectors than any concern.
  20. 20. The African Burial Ground National Monument It wasn’t until 1991, when the federal Government Services Administration (GSA) began construction of a large federal office building at 290 Broadway, between Reade and Chamber Streets, that the situation changed. The environmental impact statement has predicated no remains would be found because of the long history of development in the area. They were wrong.
  21. 21. The African Burial Ground National Monument As the first remains were uncovered during construction, the African- American community raised concerns. Excavation recovered 419 remains. However, it became apparent that the scope of the burial ground was so extensive that it couldn’t be excavated.
  22. 22. The African Burial Ground National Monument After strong lobbying and protests by the African- American community, Congress passed a law to redesign the building, avoiding the area where the remains had been found, and to build a memorial.
  23. 23. Slavery in New York City After gathering over 100,000 signatures on a petition, the ground was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993. An archeologist at the Smithsonian, Theresa Singleton said: “The media exposure has created a larger, national audience for this type of research. I've been called by dozens of scholars and laypeople, all of them interested in African-American archaeology, all of them curious about why they don't know more about the field. Until recently, even some black scholars considered African-American archaeology a waste of time. That's changed now.”
  24. 24. Slavery in New York City Of the remains recovered from the partial excavation, over half were children. This is a result of short life expectancy at the time. All were buried in separate coffins. It’s estimated at least 20,000 were buried in the old cemetery.
  25. 25. Slavery in New York City A memorial was built and completed in 2007. It was designated the 123rd National Monument.
  26. 26. Slavery in New York City The memorial features a map of the Atlantic in reference to the Middle Passage via which slaves were transported from Africa to North America. It is built of stone from South Africa and from North America, to symbolize the two worlds coming together.[33] The Door of Return, refers to The Door of No Return, a name given to slave ports set up on the coast of West Africa, from which were transported after sale, never to see their homeland again.
  27. 27. Slavery in New York City
  28. 28. The Memorial is located at the corner of Duane and Elk Street in Manhattan. The visitor center is in the Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway.
  29. 29. Print Book Free downloadable Powerpoint slideshows on survival, history writing, and interesting information are available HERE THE GREEN BERET PREPARATION AND SURVIVAL GUIDE
  30. 30. The last time former Green Beret Will Kane was involved in killing someone it made the cover of LIFE Magazine. New York City, summer 1977. It begins when he takes a compromising picture as part of the job. As the long hot summer boils, so does Kane as the mob, the CIA, the IRA and other forces are brought to bear on him. What they all seem to have forgotten, and Kane wishes he could, is that he is a highly trained and experienced warrior. A skilled killer. What should a good man do when faced with evil that the law can't touch? On 13 July 1977, the Blackout occurs and Kane explodes.
  31. 31. New York City. 1970s. Former Green Beret Will Kane is the lone wolf who must take down the bad wolves preying on the innocent.
  32. 32. New York Times bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret, and feeder of Cool Gus. He’s had over 75 books published, including the #1 bestselling series Green Berets, Time Patrol, Area 51, and Atlantis. He’s sold over 5 million books. Born in the Bronx and having traveled the world, he’s lived on an island off the east coast, an island off the west coast, in the Rocky Mountains and other places, including time overseas studying martial arts. He now lives peacefully with his wife and dogs.