N-Y Historical Society Exhibit on Slavery Wins Positive Reviews
Divided into two sections depicting New Amsterdam and New York before 1776, and then to slavery's abolishment in 1827, it is a multi-media presentation: you first view a five segment movie telling the story of slavery both before and during it's existence in New York, and then you enter a room of wire sculptures of slaves at various occupations.
As you travel through time, you learn facts that were never taught in class. Only Charleston, SC had more slaves before the Revolution than New York City; they represented 20% of the population (by comparison, Philadelphia had 6%, and Boston had 2%). No less than 40% of NYC's households owned slaves. Four maps detail the city in 1664 (when the British took over); 1741 (the "Great Negro Plot"); 1783 (American victory); and 1827 (end of NYS slavery). Each map shows, in detail, the continued growth of the city and the slaves' contribution to the story. The Society has on display many historical documents, including slave ships' freight records, an inquest into the slave revolt of 1712, ads seeking runaway slaves, and the Gradual Emancipation Law of 1799. There are portraits and decorative arts objects (furniture, silverware) showing the work of the slaves, and their masters' use of them to better their own lives, and around the corner, what the slaves had: not much of anything except tools for work. Special sections show how blacks were depicted in drawings, paintings and newspaper articles, and you can sit in a church and listen to black gospel music, work on an interactive computer project to help free slaves, or pick up a phone receiver to learn about the lives of slaves. How much were slaves worth?? In 1675, a slaver could buy a person for $350 in Africa, and sell him/her in NYC for $3,800; by 1775, slaves cost $2300 and sold for $6000. Big business, big profits, very little morality. By 1706 this profit was so greatly noticed that NYC passed a law stating that any child born of a slave woman was also a slave. Laws against slave movement, ownership of property, or social gatherings were just as restrictive at those we studied in the antebellum South. It is overwhelming!!
Just one thing bothered this observer -- the lack of the instruments used to keep the slaves in check; no handcuffs, chains, ropes, are seen; just a representation of a whip. Southern museums show these "tools" and we should also. It is not likely that most slaves were treated better north of the Mason-Dixon Line: brutality knows no borders. The exhibition closes March 5, 2006; on the second floor is a wonderful Hudson River School presentation until January 22. After seeing "Slavery" you need the quiet galleries for reflection.
comments powered by Disqus
- It happened in Idaho and was the largest massacre of Indians in US history, but where exactly did it take place?
- Junípero Serra’s Missions Destroyed Entire Native Cultures. And Now He’s Going to Be a Saint.
- Isis destruction of Palmyra's Temple of Bel revealed in satellite images
- McKinley's lost his mountain. Should we still remember his presidency?
- How the Black Panthers Fought to Make Black Lives Matter in the ’60s and ’70s
- Japanese historian upends the familiar narrative of WW 2 by taking a bottom up approach, focusing on fascism from the grassroots
- Holocaust-denying historian David Irving organises 'disgusting' £2,000-a-head holiday tours of former concentration camps and Hitler's HQ so people can 'make up their own mind about the truth'
- 72 history professors sign letter urging removal of Jefferson Davis statue from Kentucky Capitol
- 10 Years After Katrina, the Enduring Value of the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank
- Historian author Antony Beevor says his new World War 2 book may anger Americans