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

Cultural Conflict and Accommodation

 

New York fire

Among the most severe examples of racial strife and violence in colonial New York were the events surrounding the so-called slave rebellion of 1741. What began as an arson investigation evolved into a witch-hunt marked by racism. In a search to find those responsible for setting a series of fires that swept Manhattan, dozens of poor whites and blacks were accused, tried, and subsequently imprisoned or executed.

 

Conspiracy list

Among them was Cuffee, an enslaved man owned by Adolph Philipse. Cuffee was accused of setting fire to a warehouse owned by Adolph's brother, convicted, and burned at the stake. Members of the provincial government, fearing class war, used the event to promote racism as a way of driving a wedge between servant-class whites and enslaved and free blacks. Also as a result of the incident, New York's colonial government enacted an extremely harsh slave code.

 

Old Plantation

While some of the contention that marked colonial New York can be attributed to its wide cultural mix, there was cultural blending as well. Pinkster, a spring holiday celebrated in the Hudson Valley during the 18th and early 19th centuries, drew on both African and Dutch traditions. Ostensibly marking Pentecost, a Christian holiday, its practice in the Hudson Valley included such Africanisms as the naming of a king, dancing in Kongo style, and shelters decorated with vines and leaves.

 

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