Abstract

This is an article about black dreams, blacks digging for buried treasure, and black fortune tellers, mostly in New York City (although Philadelphia occasionally comes up as well) in the first half of the nineteenth century. The piece is based on decades of reading court cases and newspapers and in it, I adduce a whole lot of material, much of which has not been seen by anyone else in over one hundred and seventy-five years, in order to try and disturb, just a little, the historiographies of, on the one hand, free black life in nineteenth-century New York City, and on the other, that of conjure. In contradistinction to most other scholars working on African Americans in New York City, indeed writing about the North and perhaps even African America, I am little interested in voluntary organizations, religious organizations and the like, or for that matter most of the black leaders or the black elite, all of which subjects have been examined well and extensively by other historians. My interests lie elsewhere, in finding and exploiting sources that enable us to get at, even if usually only obliquely, those who too often get omitted from historical accounts. This piece, then, is part of my long-standing effort to recover the everyday lives of ordinary African Americans living in New York City in the first half of the nineteenth century.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 673-695
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-12
Open Access
No
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