Historians have identified at least 115 named individuals enslaved by the Philipse family at their properties in Manhattan and Westchester. Additional references to unnamed individuals increase the total to over 125. The enslaved communities living at the Philipse properties were large and diverse. With residences in Manhattan, Yonkers, and Sleepy Hollow, warehouses in all three locations, gristmills, sawmills, farmland, livestock, and sailing vessels, a large and skilled enslaved workforce was essential.
The Philipses’ fleet of ships included several fitted for the transatlantic slave trade. These vessels brought thousands of African captives from places like Elmina, M’pinda Soyo, and even Madagascar. The majority were taken to sugar plantations in Barbados and Curaçao, but some, including several individuals from the Kingdom of Kongo, came to Westchester County to help build and operate the lower and upper mills. Their names have been lost to history, but their contributions remain.
Going beyond research and including the enslaved and slavery in historic narratives begins to restore the multicultural and international world that was colonial New York. In this special program, historian Lavada Nahon reveals how historians and researchers across the state are identifying artifacts, religious practices, burial grounds, and the names, numbers, and lives of enslaved people across New York State to enrich and expand the historical narrative of New York.
Lavada Nahon is the lead Interpreter of African American History for the Bureau of Historic Sites, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. She served as project lead for the new “Our Whole History” exhibit at Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site.
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