NY Rep. Yvette Clark: Dutch Brooklynites Owned Slaves in 1898

The Bachmann Awards

The debut Bachmann Award does not, surprisingly enough, go to Michelle Bachmann herself. Instead, the honor goes to Democrat Yvette Clark, who represents part of Brooklyn in the U.S. House, for her apparent believe that the Dutch owned slaves in Brooklyn ... in 1898.

To be fair to Clark, she made her remarks while appearing in the "Better Know a District" segment on Comedy Central's Colbert Report, which gleefully skewers representatives and tries to coax them into saying absurdities (in the past, host Stephen Colbert prodded former Florida representative Robert Wexler, who was running unopposed for re-election, into saying "I enjoy cocaine because it's a fun thing to do") but the sheer factual incorrectness of her statement still boggles the mind.

Asked by Colbert what she would say to Brooklynites to change if she could go back in time to 1898 (starts at 3:04 in the video), the year Brooklyn was incorporated into New York City, she responded:

Clarke: Slavery.

Colbert: Slavery. Really? I didn’t realize there was slavery in Brooklyn in 1898.

Clarke: I’m pretty sure there was.

Colbert: It sounds like a horrible part of the United States that kept slavery going until 1898. Who would be enslaving you in 1898 in New York?

Clarke: The Dutch.

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Clarke's office claims the exchange was a joke -- if it wasn't, it does beg the question of exactly who she thinks that bearded guy on the penny and the five-dollar bill is.

The Dutch, incidentally, did introduce slavery to New Amsterdam in 1626, a practice continued by the British when they annexed the city in 1664. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, over three-fifths of the population of New York were slaves. Slavery was, in fact, legal in the state of New York until 1827, when it was finally abolished. Slavery was illegalized on a nation scale, of course, with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, after a long and bloody civil war.

So how many Bachmanns does Rep. Clark get? The fact that her gaffe serves as a reminder that slavery was a Northern practice as well as a Southern one almost took it down to four Bachmanns, but the sheer obliviousness to one of the major events of American history -- the Civil War and emancipation -- brings it up to a full Five Bachmanns.

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