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10. AFRICANS AND ATLANTIC CREOLES,
ENSLAVED AND FREE (cont'd)

Africans at Philipsburg Manor, Upper Mills

 

The initial group of enslaved people at Philipsburg may well have come from the Kongo Kingdom of Angola. In 1685, nearly 150 Africans boarded Philipse's ship, the Charles, at the port of Soyo. These people were probably prisoners of war from the Kongo. The ship first stopped in Barbados, where 105 were sold. The voyage ended in Rye, where the remaining nine slaves disembarked. Eight of these people probably formed the initial community at the Upper Mills of Philipsburg.

Probate inventoryB'Kongo (meaning "of the Kongo") people probably served as the imprint group for the African community at Philipsburg Manor. The B'Kongo culture was highly structured and sophisticated. The B'Kongo people were known as successful rice farmers. While this skill was not immediately transferable to the Hudson Valley because of its colder climate, general knowledge of growing and processing grain was. The Congolese were also famous for their blacksmithing.

One of the most intriguing aspects of B'Kongo culture was its open and accepting theology, one that centered on ancestor worship and intercession by a group of deities who answered to a supreme deity. Some B'Kongo people also incorporated aspects of Christianity, introduced by the Portuguese in the form of Roman Catholicism during the 15th century, into their religious belief system without diluting their faith. In addition, the Portuguese slave traders instituted the practice of baptizing those who were about to undertake the Middle Passage, and thus it is possible that this initial group of Africans living at Philipsburg was familiar with Catholicism.

Runaway slaveAnother African ethnic group represented among the slaves associated with the Philipse family is the Akan-speaking people of the West African coast. The Akan were particularly skilled sailors and a number of the enslaved people who were involved in Philipse family enterprises worked on board ships, a common pattern in the American colonies. Wills, probate inventories, and other manuscripts contain names that are Akan in origin. Even if Amba, Cuffee, and Joe, and others were not born in West Africa-and they may well have been-their names were.

Between 1680 and 1750, most of the people who lived at Philipsburg were African or of African descent. The enslaved Africans constructed, operated, and resided on a complex that consisted of a mill, manor house, bake house, slave house, wharves, and a church. Dina, Caesar, and Venture among others labored as millers, bakers, sailors, dairy workers, coopers, and servants. They and the other 20 enslaved men, women and children living here at the time of Philipse's death in 1750 formed a community.

 

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