A SHORT HISTORY OF SLAVERY IN NEW YORK CITY
(needs final edit and images) Slavery was introduced to New York City when the Dutch settled the colony, bringing with them 11 African men in 1626 and three women in 1628. When the English captured the city in 1664 nearly 9% of the 8000 settlers were Africans (slaves and freed) and their ownership was transferred to the British who institutionalized slavery, classifying them as chattel who worked involuntarily. Slavery continued to be an important source of New York’s labor force into the early 18th century, with 40 percent of white households using slaves, making NY the largest slave-owning colony in the north. In 1711 a slave market was established at the foot of Wall Street. The market was located at the present-day intersection of Wall and Water Streets, then at the water’s edge, and was intended for the hiring, buying, and selling of slaves. It would eventually become known as Meal Market, and be the location where slaves continued to be bought and sold.
By this time 20% of the city's population were enslaved blacks. On April 6, 1712, nine white New Yorker's were killed in what would become the city's first slave uprising. That same year a slave market was established on the foot of Wall Street. On April 6, 1712 twenty-three enslaved blacks armed with guns and knives set fire to a building on Maiden Lane. The fire soon spread and the slaves attacked the white colonists who rushed to put the fire out, killing nine of them. British soldiers dispatched militia units and soon captured the twenty-three slaves and four others. Six off the captured committed suicide, but the rest were executed, most burned alive. Laws were quickly established following the revolt making it illegal for slaves to meet and allowing slave owners to punish their slaves as they saw fit. But not even forty years later there would be another slave uprising in New York City.
Between 1700 and 1774 the city legally admitted around 6,800 slaves, with prominent NYC families such as the Schuylers, Livingstons, Van Cortlands, Beekmans and Waltons profiting from the trade. In NYC Killing a slave was illegal, but unlike the Dutch who allowed slaves to marry in church, under the British they could not be married and families were split up. In 1741 a slave uprising burned down homes, businesses, the seat of the royal government, the governor’s residence and Fort George (at the Battery). The uprising lasted six months and resulted in the execution of 30 black men and the deportation of 72. After the decade of the 1740s where the slave population would peak at 21% slavery in NYC would slowly start to decline leading up to the Revolution, with the slave market on Wall Street being dismantled in 1762. After the war, more prominent white New Yorkers began to push for a gradual emancipation and in 1799 an act declared children of slaves free. In 1809 marriage between slaves was legalized and separation of families prohibited. In 1827 NY State Governor Tompkins abolished slavery, but complete abolition was not achieved until 1841 when the state revoked a law that made nonresidents able to hold slaves for up to 9 months. But the city still held ties to southern slave holding states until the Civil War and blacks in NYC were often kidnapped in the street and transported to the South for sale.
The city profited enormously from slavery, so much that in leading up to the Civil War NYC Mayor Fernando Wood originally proposed secession rather than lose profits from the cotton trade with the South.