New York Slave Revolt of 1712
New York is a city with a good reputation with regard to social and economic progress. However, history reveals that in the 17th and 18th centuries, New York was a focal point for the slave trade. Here, African men, women, and children were sold and used as slaves by the white population. African slaves endured harsh treatment until they decided to fight for their human rights through rebellions. The oppressed slaves stood up to revolt against what they described as barbaric and inhumane treatment by their white masters.
At the time, there were many enslaved Africans due to the involvement of New York in the Caribbean slave trade. It is revealed that enslaved women worked as domestic labor, while the men served their masters by loading and offloading goods from the sea docks (Hunter n.p). The men were also involved in skilled and unskilled manual jobs within the city. Nevertheless, it is reported that on the night of April 6, 1712, over twenty slaves converged in an orchard on Maiden Lane in Manhattan (Hunter n.p). They were armed with crude weapons, hatchets, guns, and knives. African slaves sought to pursue their rights as they never accepted slavery as a natural circumstance. To them, the event of 1712 was a dramatic revolt to incite other slaves and massacre white masters who had mistreated them for long. Hunter reports that the conditions for slavery in New York City were miserable. Hence, the African slaves were revolting against barbaric, brutal, and inhumane enslavement systems imposed by the white population.
The resilience of the African slaves culminated into a revolt meant to speak against the disquiet and uncomfortable hardship they had undergone for long periods. The African slaves claimed that they were being overworked by their white masters. During the revolt, the slaves set a building on fire to alert the other slaves that the revolt was on. In the event, Hunter reveals that nine whites who responded to the fire were killed while the other six sustained injuries. Consequently, white masters sought the help of militias drawn from lower Manhattan to quell the rebellion. As a result of the concerted efforts, twenty-seven participants were captured; twenty-one were inhumanely executed while another six committed suicide.
Despite the suppression of the revolt at the time, subsequent years saw African slaves stand against oppression across the American society which later led to the abolition of slavery. The analysis of the New York revolt creates awareness on respecting human rights and liberty. It makes us discredit the view of treating slavery as a necessary evil. Benezet opines that slavery allowed the white population to use slaves for selfish economic gains. This report creates awareness for scholars to pursue research on dealing with diverse American society devoid of discrimination. We do not need to increase inequality, yet the gap between the rich and poor is increasing day by day.
Even with the abolition of slavery due to the valiant efforts of Africans, diverse scholarly work still portrays African people in a bad light. The western media broadcast negative African stories by focusing on areas in Africa with high poverty rates and violence. It is rare to find a story focusing on positive stories of how Africa people are prospering. As shown by Bernstein, western media outlets frequently focus on portraying Africans in bad light connecting them to the events of slavery in Ancient societies. This report vehemently contradicts the misconceptions and distorted image of black people as violent people. Based on the events portrayed in the report, African people often fight for their freedom, liberty and desire to be treated just like the rest of privileged Americans.
Finally, going forward, the report has shed light on the need to promote equality and desist from oppressing and discriminating against others based on ethnicity and race. It is worth mentioning that all people are treated in the image of God, and therefore, we are all equal in the eyes of God. Promoting equality is the only legacy we can leave behind for our next generation
Benezet, Anthony. Observations on the Inslaving, Importing and Purchasing of Negroes.
Germantown, Pennsylvania: Christopher Sower, 1760. American Imprints Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (3–1).
Bernstein, Robin. Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood and Race from Slavery to
Civil Rights. New York: New York University Press, 2011. Print.
Hunter, Robert. “Colonial New York’s Governor Reports on the 1712 Slave Revolt,” HERB:
Resources for Teachers. https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/690. Accessed December 5, 2019.