Slavery in New York: The African American Experience / Edition 1

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Overview

A definitive account of the hitherto hidden slave past of America's first city.

"For much of the eighteenth century, New York City was second only to Charlestown, South Carolina, in its proportion of slaves in an urban population. It was a fact about New York that nearly always elicited comment from European visitors. "It rather hurts a European eye to see so many negro slaves upon the streets," one Scottish traveler complained."—from Slavery in New York

The recent discovery of the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan reminded Americans that slavery in the United States was not merely a phenomenon of the antebellum South. In fact, for most of its history New York was a slave city.

Edited by Ira Berlin, the Bancroft Prize-winning author of Many Thousands Gone, and Leslie Harris, Slavery in New York brings together twelve new contributions by leading historians of slavery and African American life in New York. Published to accompany a major exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, the book demonstrates how slavery shaped the day-to-day experience of New Yorkers, black and white, and how, as a way of doing business, it propelled New York to become the commercial and financial power it is today.

Powerfully illustrated with images from the New-York Historical Society exhibit, Slavery in New York will be the definitive account of New York's slave past.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"It rather hurts a European eye to see so many Negro slaves upon the streets," complained a Scottish visitor to New York City in the 18th century. For thousands of African Americans in servitude, the experience was, of course, even more painful. This anthology, edited by National Book Critics finalist Ira Berlin, presents the realities of slavery in New York City with gripping clarity.
Publishers Weekly
This groundbreaking collection, which is slated to be published in conjunction with the fall 2005 Slavery and the Making of New York exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, chronicles and analyzes New York City's African-American presence, both slave and free, from the 17th-century to the end of the 19th century. The 1991 discovery of the city's extensive African burial ground highlighted slavery's centrality to New York history, a fact editors Berlin (Many Thousands Gone) and Harris (In the Shadow of Slavery) further delineate (e.g., slaves made up over a quarter of the labor force). The 11 essays-from scholars Christopher Moore, Jill Lepore, Graham Hodges, Patrick Rael, Shane White, Carla L. Peterson, Craig Steven Wilder, Manisha Sinha, David Quigley, Iver Bernstein and Marcy S. Sacks-explore the social, cultural and political impact of the black community on the early development and growth of New York City. Though academic thoroughness and occasional repetition and contradiction may slightly cloud the collection, the work is accessible to the lay reader. Pertinent illustrations and over 30 sidebars throughout the text offer enriching sketches of many of the people, places and events that figure in the essays. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
These two revealing works take complementary approaches to the depth and breadth of slavery's scar on America's character. Expanding their award-winning investigative series for their newspaper's Sunday magazine, Northeast, two veteran reporters and an editor from Connecticut's Hartford Courant offer something of a macro view in Complicity. Peering out from a place where slaves hardly numbered more than 3000, Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jennifer Frank expose the breadth of the Colonial and antebellum North's immense profits from, and tenacious protection of, American Negro slavery. Their ten chapters follow South-North money trails from cotton textiles to carriages to rum production, pianomaking, and slave piracy. Slavery in New York presents a contrasting micro view focused upon the city that was the North's leader in slave population, with more than 20,000 slaves in 1800. Editors Berlin (history, Univ. of Maryland; Many Thousands Gone) and Harris (history, Emory Univ.; In the Shadow of Slavery) and 11 other leading scholars peel back the layers of New York's long slave past. Their work is being published in conjunction with an exhibit of the same title slated to open in October 2005 at the New York Historical Society. The scholars recover the deep and extended roots of slavery in New York's polyglot culture from its inception in New Amsterdam in the early 1600s. They work beyond New York's gradual abolition of slavery after 1799 and general emancipation in 1865 to show blacks' remarkable resilience in creating popular, elite, and civic cultures to battle racism's constraints in and out of slavery. Alone and together, these two books are essential reading and belong in any serious collection on U.S. or regional development, slavery, or New York history.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
New York: multiethnic, liberal, progressive-and a nexus of slavery in North America. Occasioned by the discovery of what is now called the African Burial Ground, alongside what is now New York's City Hall (but well beyond the original city limits), these 12 essays from authorities on African-American history address the fact that "for nearly three hundred years, slavery was an intimate part of the lives of all New Yorkers, black and white." No sooner had the Dutch arrived than were slaves with names such as Big Manuel and Simon Congo at work clearing land throughout the Hudson Valley, though they soon, as historian Christopher Moore notes, "undertook what certainly was one of the first organized job actions by workers in North America," successfully petitioning for wages. Conditions would not improve when rule of New York fell to the British; the rule of law would extend to Africans and African-Americans, but almost always to control behavior rather than protect their persons or interests. Colonial governor Robert Hunter was appalled when, after a slave uprising in 1712, New York authorities executed 24 men (and one woman) for their actions, remarking that in the West Indies, "where their laws against their slaves are most severe," a handful would have been killed as an example to others. Laws were remade to uphold and strengthen slavery in New York in the early days of American independence, and New York was far slower than its neighbors to move toward abolition; in the years preceding the Civil War, its economy was so bound up with the South's that, wrote one journalist, it was "almost as dependent upon Southern slavery as Charleston itself." Illustrated with reproduced documents,artwork and photographs, the volume concludes with a consideration of African-American life in New York after the war until the turn of the century. A fine work of scholarship, offering a view of the metropolis that few today know.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565849976
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 403
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Meet the Author

Ira Berlin is the author of Generations of Captivity, Many Thousands Gone (winner of the Bancroft Prize), Remembering Slavery, and Slaves Without Masters. He is a professor of U.S. and African American history at the University of Maryland. Leslie Harris is a professor of history at Emory University and is the author of In the Shadow of Slavery.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2006

    Quite Interesting.

    I knew that there may have been slaves in New York, that wasn't a newsflash for me. What was a newsflash was the alarming number of slaves that were up here. When you here of slavery you automatically think of the 'Dirty South'. This book deals with slavery in America, which is no 'new news', but I learned something about the history of New York, and that's worth 5 stars. Keep the knowledge flowing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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