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8. AFRICANS AND ATLANTIC CREOLES, ENSLAVED AND FREE

Atlantic Creoles, New York's First Blacks

 

Literary partyThe very first blacks who arrived in New Netherland may not have come directly from Africa nor were they necessarily enslaved. Historians refer to these people as Atlantic Creoles because they lived on both the east and west shores of the Atlantic Ocean and, as a group, were of mixed ancestry. Middlemen in trade between Europe, Africa, and North and South America, they served as merchants, translators, and sailors. Their tongue served as the common language of trade. Jan Rodrigues and a handful of other Atlantic Creoles in New Netherland were free, but not all were. Two enslaved men belonging to the Philipse family were Atlantic Creoles; their stories reveal information about the role of Atlantic Creoles in world culture and trade.

 

Nicholas Cartagena's last name suggests that he, or his ancestors, came from the city of the same name located in present-day Columbia. Enslaved, he worked as an interpreter on a Philipse vessel bound for Madagascar. There, without prior approval, the captain of the ship sold Cartagena to Philipse's slave supplier. Cartagena eventually bought his freedom and, in return, Frederick Philipse grudgingly sent him a letter of manumission.

Slave shipJack, whose name was common among Atlantic Creoles, escaped from the Manor of Philipsburg during the mid-1690s and may have returned to Africa aboard a privateer. Philipse described him in a letter as a "remarkable fellow" who was probably headed toward the Persian Gulf by way of Rhode Island. Philipse anticipated that Jack might find employment there as a sailor. Like Nicholas Cartagena and other Atlantic Creoles, Jack was connected to the Atlantic World through the sea.

 

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