Monday, 22 October 2012

Life Stories Profiles of Black New Yorkers During Slavery and Emancipation

"On a spring night in 1712, after the moon set, two slaves set fire to a building on the property of baker Peter Vantilborough. They then ran to a nearby
orchard and joined other slaves who were waiting quietly in the darkness.
There were more than 20 of them, and they were all holding guns, knives, or
hatchets. When neighbors noticed the fire and came running to put it out, the
slaves attacked and killed nine white people. The governor sent troops to
capture blacks thought to be involved. Six slaves committed suicide rather
than be taken. Thirty-nine others were charged with the crimes. Mars was
one of several blacks charged with killing Adrian Beekman. 
This was the first big uprising of slaves in New York. Most of the blacks
belonged to the Coromantee or Pawpaw people of West Africa. Most had
only been in New York City for a year or two. They were just beginning to
understand what it meant to be a slave here. In West Africa, a slave could
eventually become absorbed into the owner’s family. When these Africans learned that in New York they would
always be slaves, they started planning their rebellion. 
The trials began within days, and most were quick. Some people were tried, found guilty, and executed in a single day. Mars’s owner, Jacob Regnier, testified at his trial. He may have spoken in Mars’s favor, because Mars
was found not guilty. The Attorney General had an old feud with Regnier, and decided to try Mars again for
killing Beekman. Mars was found not guilty at the second trial, too, but the Attorney General was not finished.
He ordered a third trial of Mars, and charged him with a different murder. This time, Mars was found guilty and
sentenced to be hanged. It was June 7, 1712.
Then Royal Governor Hunter stepped in. He thought the Attorney General was using Mars just to get back at his
old enemy, Regnier. The governor issued a reprieve for Mars, and wrote to England for an official pardon. Mars
had to wait in jail until the pardon arrived in October, but then his case was finally settled. He was not hanged,
and he was returned to Regnier as his slave."

This source is a life story profile on a man named Regnier’s Mars an African Slave who appeared in the public record documents in New York of the year 1712. The source reflects Mar’s view of what he thought slavery would have been like when he migrated to America in the 1700.
However his perception had changed when he discovered the difference between being a slave in West Africa and a slave in America was unfair. In West Africa, the slaves would be absorbed into the owner's family meaning the slaves would be involved and in a way part of their owner’s family, which was completely different in New York especially when Mar’s learnt that he, would always be a slave. This resulted in rebellion. African Americans thought and knew that it wasn't fair.

Reading Mar’s profile of his experience in America gave me an insight of what and how Africans were treated particularly in New York.
This is inconsiderate to black Africans especially when people who come from other countries such as Germans only had to be slaves for about 6 years to pay off their dept, but for black Africans they could never have the choice of freedom or even experiencing having their own land just because they are black.

Besides that it was interesting to know that the African slaves didn't have their name their biological parents gave to them but they had to have the name of their owners. This is a basic implication that African slaves weren't consider as a person but a property owned and sold numerous of times.

Sources: “Rev. John Sharpe’s Proposals, Etc., 1713,” Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1880 (New York: New-York Historical
Society, 1881), 339-363; Kenneth Scott, “The Slave Insurrection in New York in 1712,” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 45 (1962).

Life Stories aims to portray slavery not as an abstract system but as an interaction of human beings.

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