Archive for March 19th, 2018

In the IHARE article Undoing the Whitewashing of Black History in New York, Peter Feinman continues to address “some of the ways the first two centuries of black history in New York from slavery to emancipation had been forgotten or downplayed over the years.”

He was referring to Hunts Burial Ground in the Bronx and the Harlem African Burial Ground. As some know, slavery was not ended in New York State until July 4, 1827.

To that end, as he noted, The New York Slavery Records Index is a “searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and their owners, beginning as early as 1525 and ending during the Civil War. According to the website:

Our data come from census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. The index contains over 35,000 records and will continue to grow as our team of John Jay College professors and students locates and assembles data from additional sources.

Amy Biancolli wrote a great article in the Times Union, New York’s slave past unearthed, showing how some surnames in the Albany area represent slaveholders with at least 13 enslaved people at some point: Dow, Beckman, Abeel, Van Buren, and Schuyler.

Feinman states, sarcastically: “Everybody knows slavery only occurred in the South. Everyone knows that the North is morally superior to the South because we never had slavery here. Everyone knows that slavery had nothing to do with the origin of the Civil War. Making 200 years of history disappear is quite a trick, but that history is still there and little by little it has emerged into the historical record.”

I haven’t had much of a chance to play with this tool yet. But I did a quick and dirty search on slaveholders with the last name Bell, because the oldest ancestor I can find, Harriet Bell Archer’s father, was William E. Bell, born in Orange County, NY. Harriet, born March 12, 1838, was the wife of James Archer, the Civil War vet I mentioned recently.

Type of Record Slave Owner
Year of Record 1790
Owner Last Name Bell
Owner First Name John
County or Borough Orange
Locality Orange
Number of Slaves 1
Number of All Persons 7
Source Document Census1790

Type of Record Slave Owner
Year of Record 1800
Owner Last Name Bell
Owner First Name William
County or Borough Rockland
Locality Orange
Number of Slaves 1
Number of All Persons 6
Source Document Census1800

And nothing in 1810 or later, suggesting the one enslaved person was freed, or escaped, in the first decade of the 19th century. Obviously something to investigate more fully in my purported free time.

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