Slavery in New York, a New York Historical Society exhibition, covers the period from 1600 to 1827, the year slavery was finally abolished in these parts. The society explains that most New Yorkers are completely unaware of this terrible legacy because:
in the years leading up to the Civil War, the distinction between slave states and free states became fixed in the popular mind and in school texts. Reading backwards, many northerners came to believe that their communities had always been bastions of liberty.
But it happened here. The exhibition includes “ledger books of slaving voyages,” “bills of sale and ads for runaway slaves,” and “long runs of important newspapers documenting the struggle for American independence and against slavery.”
On November 20, the New York Public Library hosts a separate, free program on Slavery, Literacy, and Freedom.
Opening with a reading of excerpts from Frederick Douglass’ classic American slave narrative from the mid-1800s, then turning back the clock to visit New York City during the early colonial and national era, we will consider the influences of literacy and literature on enslaved and free blacks.