Colonization and Settlement (1621-1750)
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As in the southern colonies, New York newspapers were filled with slave advertisements that provide many details about the life and labor of enslaved New Yorkers. Historian Jill Lepore calculates that 253 advertisements for runaway slaves and servants were printed in New York City newspapers from 1733 to 1752, many of which were placed by owners…

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Item Type: Advertisement
Date: 1734

By 1740, almost twenty percent of New York's population was African American and roughly half of white households owned at least one slave. While slaves were forced to live and work alongside whites, they sought out the company of other African Americans. In narrow, bustling streets of the colonial city, enslaved people, especially men, walked…

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Item Type: Book (excerpt)
Date: 2005

In the following passage, historian Jill Lepore carefully considers an enslaved man's walk through 1740s Manhattan. The slave, who was known as Pedro, described a Sunday walk through Manhattan as part of a confession that he gave during the investigations into the alleged slave conspiracy of 1741. Lepore notes both the breadth of slave codes in New…

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Item Type: Book (excerpt)
Date: 2005

In 1712, Manhattan's population was about 6,000 living in an area twenty blocks long by 10 blocks wide; 10-15% of those inhabitants were enslaved Africans. Within this small area, slaves lived with their masters and worked along side white servants and other slaves. Enslaved women mostly worked in domestic labor, whereas men spent most of their day…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1712

In this letter to superiors at the Hague, Pieter Schaghen describes conditions in New Amsterdam, including the purchase of Manhattan from local Indians for goods worth sixty guilders. Scholars have speculated that the Indians who took part in this transaction likely had a different view of it, and did not believe they had sold the island to the…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1626

Fires were not uncommon in New York in the early 18th century. The city's ever-present fear of destruction by fire was heightened by the suspicion that the fires of 1741 were ignited by rebellious slaves. Arson was used by enslaved New Yorkers in 1712. Reports of slave revolts in Antigua (1736) and Charleston, SC (Stono rebellion of 1739) were…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1741

This is a transcription of a bill of sale for a slave woman and her child that took place on Long Island in 1716. In the transaction, a woman named Francis and her two-year-old daughter Hannah are sold by William Willis of Hempstead to David Seaman of Oyster Bay for the sum of sixty-three pounds. Slavery was common in New York City and Long Island…

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Item Type: Government Document
Date: 1716

This blank map is provided for use in the activity "Many Passages: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Brooks," for students to illustrate the Middle Passage.

Item Type: Map
Date: 2002

This account of Native American life in Pennsylvania was published by the colony's founder, William Penn, who hoped to encourage settlement in the colony. Describing the physical appearance, diet, shelter, rituals and mannerisms of the Lenni-Lenape, or Delaware, people, Penn is lavish in his praise. While his description of the Indians as "light…

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Item Type: Pamphlet/Petition
Date: 1683

This illustration was one of several published in the American edition of The Book of Trades, or Library of the Useful Arts, a British survey of crafts that were practiced in the colonies. Each illustration was accompanied by a description of the craft, the kinds of materials used to perform the craft as well as their typical cost. The book also…

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Item Type: Poster/Print
Date: 1807