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Somewhat More Independent

The End of Slavery in New York City, 1770-1810

Shane White

Publication Year: 1991

Shane White creatively uses a remarkable array of primary sources--census data, tax lists, city directories, diaries, newspapers and magazines, and courtroom testimony--to reconstruct the content and context of the slave's world in New York and its environs during the revolutionary and early republic periods. White explores, among many things, the demography of slavery, the decline of the institution during and after the Revolution, racial attitudes, acculturation, and free blacks' "creative adaptation to an often hostile world."

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page Copyright Page

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pp. vii

List of Maps and Figures

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pp. ix

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

IN THE BEGINNING this was to be a study of the end of slavery in the North. After a couple of years I realized that I had bitten off more than I could satisfactorily chew and the topic was cut back to the end of slavery in the Middle Atlantic states...

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pp. xix-xxiv

OVER RECENT YEARS historians of black Americans have demonstrated a high level of historical consciousness about their own field. August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, relying on scores of interviews with practitioners...

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A Note to the Reader

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pp. xxv-xxix

THE POPULATION STATISTICS for New York in this book are taken from the 1790, 1800, and 1810 federal censuses. My figures differ from the totals used by other historians for a number of reasons. Anyone who has worked with these early censuses...

Part One: Whites

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pp. 1-75

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1. Slavery in New York City

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pp. 3-23

IN THE EARLY HOURS of a September morning in 1794, the Fair American drifted gently on the tide into New York harbor. Awakened by unaccustomed sounds and eager for his first glimpse of America, William Strickland, an English gentleman...

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2. The Decline of Slavery in New York City, 1790–1810

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pp. 24-55

THE NEW YORK that William Strickland observed in 1794 had already begun the dramatic growth that would soon make it the most important city in the United States. With its splendid harbor (open, unlike Philadelphia's, for virtually...

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3. Impious Prayers

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pp. 56-75

IN A LETTER to Egbert Benson in 1780, John Jay asserted that unless America introduced a gradual abolition measure "her Prayers to Heaven for Liberty will be impious." It was a maxim in God's court as well as in the new...

Part Two: Blacks

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4. A Mild Slavery?

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pp. 79-113

IN THE 1830s ALEXANDER COVENTRY, who spent much of his life in the lower Hudson River valley, set down the impressions he had formed in the iy8os and 17905 of the conditions of blacks in that region. Though these blacks were then enslaved...

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5. Running Away

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pp. 114-149

IN EARLY JULY 1787 two Schenectady slaves fetching their master's cows came upon a pocket book lying on the ground. Later, another black was able to identify the five notes inside the pocket book as ten-pound bills...

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6. Free Blacks

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pp. 150-184

IN AUGUST 1814, as the British naval blockade of New York tightened, the "free people of color" called a public meeting and resolved to offer their services to the city's Committee of Defense. To this end, a notice was inserted...

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7. A Question of Style

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pp. 185-206

As ELIHU SMITH, a young physician, and William Dunlap, his dramatist friend, strolled through the streets of New York on an October day in 1795, their attention was attracted to the appearance of a black passerby. The man, Smith recorded...

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pp. 207-209

WE ARE NOW in a better position to understand that there were grounds for the "Citizen of Color" to claim, in 1814, that blacks were advancing under the protection of New York's liberal laws and that "we dwell in safety and pursue our honest callings...


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pp. 211-269


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pp. 271-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343624
E-ISBN-10: 0820312452
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820312453

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 1991