An A-Z List of NYC Streets Named for SlaveownersHistorians in the News
tags: slavery, New York City, urban history, public history
Alan Singer is a historian and teacher educator at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York. He is the author of New York and Slavery: Time to Teach the Truth (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2008) and New York's Grand Emancipation Jubilee: Essays on Slavery, Resistance, Abolition, Teaching, and Historical Memory (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2018).
There is a nationwide movement to reconsider the names of places and teams and to stop honoring racists and racist symbols. The Cleveland Indians will soon be no more; the baseball team will be known as the Cleveland Guardians. The Washington Redskins are now the Washington Football Team while a new name is being considered. A bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader, a Confederate general responsible for atrocities committed against African American troops serving in the United States army, and a founder of the terrorist Ku Klux Klan, was finally removed from the state capitol building in Nashville, Tennessee. Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced the Reconciliation in Place Names Act to create a special advisory committee to investigate and propose changes to offensive place names. There remain thousands of towns, lakes, streams, creeks and mountains in the United States with racist names.
In New York City, Eric Adams, the Democratic Party candidate for Mayor, pledges to rename streets and buildings named after slave-owners. The name of a Bronx Park was recently changed from Mullaly to Foster. John Mullaly was indicted during the Civil War for inciting a draft riot that led to the murder of African Americans on the streets of Manhattan. The Reverend Wendell Foster was a Bronx community activist who campaigned to have the park restored.
The following Manhattan streets are named for slaveholders and slave traders:
Bayard Street in present day Chinatown is named after Nicholas Bayard, a nephew of Peter Stuyvesant, and an early mayor of British New York. Bayard was convicted of complicity with the pirate William Kidd but escaped punishment. Nicholas and his son owned and operated sugar mills processing slave-produced commodities in the city and owned stakes in at least eight slave trading ships. Bayard is listed as holding against his will the accused enslaved African Phaeton in records of the 1741 slave rebellion plot.
Beekman Street and Place near City Hall Park are named after Willem Beeckman (William Beekman), a colonial mayor of New York City and a major landowner. A number of sources list the Beekman’s as slaveholders and slave traders. Nearby William Street is also named after Beeckman.
Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village is named after writer Anthony Bleecker. Bleecker is listed as a slaveholder in records of the Trinity Church.
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