New York and Slavery

African American Heritage Trail Markers

Illustrator: David McLimans

Illustration: David McLimans

African American Heritage Trail Markers

1. Wall Street Slave Market (Wall and Water Streets). A market for the sale and hire of enslaved Africans and Indians was established here at the Meal (Grain) Market in 1711 by the New York Common Council.

2. Amistad Defense Committee (122 Pearl Street near Hanover Street). Offices of silk merchants Lewis and Arthur Tappan, abolitionists who organized the defense committee to free enslaved Africans on the Amistad. The Tappans were among the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society in December 1833. In 1834, it was attacked by a pro-slavery mob.

3. Financier of the Slave Trade (55 South Street). Moses Taylor was a sugar merchant and banker with offices at 55 South Street. Taylor became a member of the board of the City Bank in 1837, and served as its president from 1855 until his death in 1882. Taylor’s personal resources and role as business agent for the leading exporter of Cuban sugar to the United States was invaluable to the growth of the institution now known as Citibank.

4. Slave Traders’ Meeting Place (Fulton and South Streets). The men who smuggled enslaved Africans referred to themselves as “blackbirders” and their illegal human cargo as “black ivory.” Their favorite New York City meeting place was Sweet’s Restaurant at the corner of Fulton and South streets.

5. Abolitionist Meeting House (118 Williams Street between Fulton and John). Site of a boarding house operated by Asenath Hatch Nicholson, an ardent abolitionist. Starting in 1835, abolitionists met here to plan campaigns to end slavery.

6. African Free School (William and Beekman Streets). The first African Free School was established at 245 Williams Street in 1787 by the New York Manumission Society. Forty boys and girls were taught in a single room. It was destroyed in 1814 and replaced by a new building on William Street near Duane.

7. 1712 Slave Rebellion (Maiden Lane near Broadway). In 1712, a group of more than 20 enslaved Africans set fire to a building on Maiden Lane in Manhattan and ambushed whites who tried to put out the blaze. Eight white men were killed in this abortive rebellion. In response, 13 black men were hanged, one was starved to death, four were burned alive at the stake, and another broken on the wheel.

8. Hughson’s Tavern (Liberty Street and Trinity Place). The location of the tavern where enslaved Africans, free blacks, and white supporters are supposed to have plotted the 1741 Slave Conspiracy. White New Yorkers, afraid of another slave revolt, responded to rumors and unexplained fires with the arrest of 146 enslaved Africans, the execution of 35 blacks and four whites, and the transport to other colonies of 70 enslaved people. Historians continue to doubt whether a slave conspiracy ever existed.

9. New York City Hall. William Havemeyer, elected mayor of New York City in 1845, 1848, and 1872, launched his political career from the family’s sugar refining business. The sugar was produced in the South and Cuba by enslaved African labor. Fernando Wood, as Mayor of New York City in 1861, called on the city to secede from the Union along with the South. As a Congressman, he opposed the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution.

10. African Burial Ground. The African Burial Ground is a five- or six-acre cemetery that was used between the late 1600s and 1796 and originally contained 10,000 to 20,000 burials. Despite the harsh treatment these African people experienced in colonial America, the 427 bodies recovered from the site were buried with great care and love. They were wrapped in linen shrouds and methodically positioned in well-built cedar or pine coffins that sometimes contained beads or other treasured objects.

11. 1741 Execution of Enslaved Africans (Foley Square). The site where enslaved Africans, free blacks and white supporters accused of plotting the 1741 Slave Conspiracy were executed.

Other Important Manhattan Sites

12. David Ruggles’ Home (36 Lispendard Street, one block south of Canal Street at the corner of Church Street). In 1838, Ruggles harbored a fugitive slave here named Frederick Washington Bailey who later became known as Frederick Douglass.

13. Land of the Blacks (Washington Square Park). In 1644, 11 enslaved African men petitioned the local government and obtained their freedom in exchange for the promise to pay an annual tax in produce. They each received the title to land on the outskirts of the colony where they would be a buffer against attack from native forces. Black farmers soon owned a two-mile-long strip of land from what is now Canal Street to 34th Street in Manhattan. This is the site of the farm of Anthony Portugies.

14. Seneca Village (Central Park). Seneca Village was Manhattan’s first prominent community of African-American property owners. From 1825 to 1857, it was located between 82nd and 89th Streets at Seventh and Eighth Avenues in what is now a section of Central Park.