THE TIES THAT BIND: SLAVE PARENTHOOD
Andrew Bell having separated a child from its mother, his slave, the Mother by her cries has made the town re‑echo and has continued her exclamations for 2 hours incessantly and still continues them. I am sick at oppression.
William Dunlap (l797)
Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.
Ma‑Ma Betts to daughter Isabella
[Sojourner Truth] (ca. l808)
A combination of human biology, black cultural customs (both African and Afro‑American), and the legal condition of slavery determined the experience of parenthood for New York slaves. As slaves, husbands and wives had to abandon traditional African and normal human parental role expectations; they produced children for whom they could neither provide a home nor continual parental contact. Children, in turn, could only partially fulfill their obligations towards parents. They could offer parents respect, but obedience was ultimately owed to masters. Slave children were unable to care for parents in old age. The traditional family system through which parents mesh their children into a hierarchy of relationships with siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins was crippled by the inability of slaves to freely live with, visit, and help other family members. Nevertheless, it is probable that parents and adults passed on traditional family stories, attitudes, and values to black children--the ideas of love, loyalty, and obligation toward kin survived although they could only rarely be implemented.
Parenthood for New York slaves most often functioned as a passive emotional system which linked children to parents whom they would often see irregularly, but who remained as symbols of guardianship and affection. Active parenthood involving care, support, and daily cohabitation with children may have only been a temporary pattern which lasted for intermittent periods when common ownership could be arranged. On a day‑to‑day basis, any non‑related black adults in the household had to serve as surrogate parents and as adult role models to children who had been separated from their biological families. Where children were the only slaves owned in a household, white owners served as the sole immediate source of authority and cultural education, supplemented by occasional contacts with relatives and other slave or free black adults in the vicinity.
The responsibilities and powers of parenthood were sharply curtailed by slavery; parents had little ability to shelter, educate, or protect their children, and few could hope personally to raise their offspring to adulthood before either they or the children were sold off. In spite of these obstacles, many New York slave parents tried to care for their children as best they could. They named them for relatives from whom they might be removed forever but whose names they would bear, purchased their freedom where possible, maintained relationships through overt or covert travel, and negotiated with masters to prevent as many sales as they could and to obtain guarantees of their children's eventual freedom.
Parenthood for slaves rarely meant family life wherein biologically related parents and children lived together as a nuclear family in the same household. Parenthood for New York slave mothers and fathers was often a relationship in which only one or neither parent actually lived with his children. Since the majority of slave marriages involved separately owned partners, almost all slaves at several points during their lives played the role of single parents; slave couples could not routinely share parenthood together. In the context of New York slavery it is more useful to view parenthood in the framework of single motherhood or single fatherhood rather than dual parenthood.
Repeated co‑parenthood over time with continued separate ownership and residence of the parents was the typical pattern of slave reproduction. Church baptismal registers often recorded the names and different respective owners of the parents of slave children. Eunice was baptized at the First Church of Southold on March 26, l775; she was the daughter of Titus, servant of Ezra L'Hommedieu, and of Jude, servant woman to Widow Mary Hutchinson.1 A slave woman of John Barnes in Castleton gave birth to a son Dave on November l0, l8l3; Sam the father belonged to Richard Corsen. When she gave birth again in l8l6 the father of the new son Sam was also Sam, still owned by Richard Corsen.2 This couple produced children while living apart‑‑Dave and Sam lived with their mother while their father continued to lived separately in his master's household. Another Castleton owner, John Mersereau, recorded the birth of Nicholas on May 8, l800, to his slave Sam--the mother Bett belonged to Cornelius Cruser. Five years later Mersereau registered the birth of Jack (and later of Nick in l8l0) to his slave Bett, whom he had obviously purchased from Cruser in the interim. This couple had succeeded in achieving common ownership by inducing the owner to buy Sam's wife.3
The parental career of Dian, the slave of Flatlands farmer John Baxter, illustrates the difficulty faced by slaves in maintaining face‑to‑face familial continuity. Dian gave birth to Joe on October 5, l795; the father's name and residence are unknown. Dian later married Tom, a slave belonging to a separate owner, H. Wyckoff, on September l3, l800. Six months later she gave birth to Dianna, followed by the birth of Tom in l803. On January 3l, l804, Dian was sold along with her eight‑year‑old son Joe (father unknown) and ten‑month‑old son Tom (fathered by Tom) to Rem Hegeman for $250. This sale separated Dian from her three‑year‑old daughter Dianna, who had remained in Baxter's household until at least l803 as a paid boarder subsequent to her abandonment to local overseers of the poor at age one. At the end of this eight‑year period only the mother and two children remained together out of a complicated biological family which contained potentially two fathers, one mother, and three children. The father or fathers had never lived with their wife and children.4
* * * * *
Men and women have traditionally experienced parenthood in different ways. The fact that females physically bore the children and that adults played sharply delineated sex roles meant that motherhood and fatherhood were qualitatively different experiences for eighteenth and nineteenth century white New Yorkers. Slavery redefined parental roles for black New Yorkers. While slave women were responsible for the care of children as were free women, they could only nurse, raise, and nurture their offspring until they were sold away. Slave fathers were rarely able to nor were they expected to support and provide for their children, with whom they usually never lived. Neither slave mothers nor slave fathers could make realistic plans for the future of their children.
Motherhood for slave women was fundamentally altered because they gave birth not only to children but to slave children. Slavery was a legal and familial condition transmitted biologically from slave women to all of their children--New York law dictated a uterine descent for slavery: "all and every Negro, Indian Mulatto and Mestee Bastard Child and Children who is, are, and shall be born of any Negro, Indian, Mulatto or Mestee, shall follow ye State and Condition of the Mother and be esteemed . . . a slave."5 Women therefore gave birth to children with whom they would live often only until the children were old enough to be of market and labor value. Mothers were usually the one parent able to stay with their children for some period of years--since children born to slave women were the property of their mothers' owners--but slavery could separate them at any time. While most slave children remained with their mothers (and their mothers' owners) until age five, some slave mothers lost their children as very young infants. Babies were occasionally disposed of in advance of either their conceptions or births. John Jackson of Hempstead left his negro girl Nanny to his daughter in his will, adding that "the first girl that Nanny hath after the date of these presents, shall be to my daughter Hannah Seaman, and she shall have it when it is fit to wean."6
Sale of children (and often of women alone) broke up mother‑child family units, leaving both male and female parents separated from their offspring. Mothers could do little to protect their children or prevent sales, but some women were occasionally able to exercise control over the future disposition of their offspring. Teunis Somarindick ordered in his will that his "black woman Jane and all her children that are not disposed of at the time of my decease shall be sold...the money to my children...but Jane shall have the privilege of choosing places for them."7 Jane was unable to affect the outcome of sales of her children during her owner's life, but she could insure the initial placement of those still left on the estate at Somarindick's death. Once sold, however Jane's children could be resold countless times by their new owners at any distance from their mother and other siblings.
Cadwallader Colden, a member of the Governor's Council from 1721 to 1776, sold his thirty‑three‑year‑old negro woman and one of her children to a purchaser in Barbadoes in 1717. Colden praised her housework abilities and sobriety but commented that she was sullen, fresh, and needed discipline. He considered selling her locally, though he wanted to remove her from her remaining children: "I could have sold her here to good advantage but I have several other of her Children which I value and I know if she should stay in this country she would spoil them."8 In this instance, slavery worked to ensure the separation of a rebellious mother from her children.
African and Afro‑American social mores determined the age at which women became sexually active, bore children (whether in or out of wedlock), and married. Information is limited on the age of slaves at marriage. Ages were included for only two slave couples married in New York churches--the grooms were age twenty‑two and twenty‑three, with brides aged twenty‑two and eighteen years. A free black woman married a slave husband in 1817 at age seventeen. The ages of five free black couples on their dates of marriage in the 1834 to 1848 period are known: the men were ages 25, 22, 24, 27 and 22, while their respective brides were 19, 16, 15 ,18, and 18 years of age.9
The age at marriage can also be approximated by the age of couples who were sold, listed in slave runaway ads, or evacuated with the British troops in 1783; these ages, however, represent couples who had already been married for an undetermined number of years. On March 21, 1765, a notice appeared in the New York Weekly Post Boy advertising for sale a "negro fellow, age 25. . . . Also a negro wench his wife, about 17 years old. . . ." Two runaway ads describe slave couples where the husbands were age twenty‑four and thirty, and the wives were age twenty and twenty‑two.10 When British troops pulled out of New York harbor in 1783, they evacuated 3,000 blacks according to the ship inspection registers: 247 were identifiable as former New York slaves.11 Ages were listed for thirty of the New York black couples--the median age for the husbands was thirty, and twenty‑six for the wives. The four youngest husbands among the evacuees were aged 19, 21, 22 and 23, while the four youngest wives were 16, 18, 19, and 19 years old, representing the most recently married couples in the sample.
The average slave woman apparently married at sixteen to twenty years of age.12 Her husband was six years (median) older than she, aged twenty to twenty‑five years at the time of their marriage.13 The early age of marriage suggests that adolescent sexual activity was common. Whether married or unmarried, a New York slave woman probably gave birth to her first child in her late teens.14 No direct evidence exists on the age of New York slave women at the birth of their first children.15 As indirect evidence, a sample of only eleven newspaper runaway ads, three bills of sale, twelve newspaper for sale ads, and thirteen manumission documents included both the ages of thirty‑nine slave mothers and the ages of some of their children.16 Almost half of the women had been between age twelve and nineteen when they bore these offspring; these children were probably their real first births. The children of the older women were probably not first births--earlier children not listed in these documents may have died, remained with the original owner, or have already been sold away. If all of the children had been the first born, the mothers' median age at initial childbirth would have been twenty years. Since many of the children were second or even later births, the age at first birth of these slave women was probably from two to three years earlier--assuming that New York slave women delivered children a median of twenty‑eight months apart (discussed below).
The commonness of teenage motherhood among New York black women was suggested in a l796 letter written by "Africanus" and published in the January 26, l796, edition of The Argus or Greenleaf's New Daily Advertiser. Africanus proposed a gradual emancipation program whereby slavery would be phased out by freeing all female slaves born after l796 at age seventeen, along with any children they may have had prior to that age. He estimated that three‑fifths of them would have given birth to children by age seventeen. This observation by a New Yorker indicated that many slave women began childbearing at age fifteen or sixteen; by age nineteen, most black women had probably delivered their first child.
The cultural and medical practices followed during childbirth among New York slave women are unknown. Undoubtedly they varied between l626 and l827 as African‑born predominance gave way to more assimilated Afro‑American customs and as the medical arts perhaps improved in the colony. A white midwife was present in New Amsterdam as early as l634 and assisted in the delivery of a mulatto child in l638.17 In New York and New England white midwives generally attended slave women at childbirth in the mid‑eighteenth century. In l726, Elizabeth Hill searched for a midwife in the country to attend the delivery of her former slave Tamar, now the property of her nephew in New York, Cadwallader Colden.18
How frequently a New York slave woman gave birth depended on her age, individual health and fertility, diet, frequency of sex, proximity of her husband, stability of her marriage or relationship, and how long she breastfed between pregnancies. Several studies of southern slave women variously found that they gave birth every 24, 25 to 27, or 33 months while white women in Plymouth Colony gave birth roughly 24 months apart.19 Any difference in the frequency of births for slave women in various areas and time periods and between black and white women in the same locality reflected the shifting conditions of enslavement for black women from colony to colony and over time which affected their fertility patterns (including such factors as the black sex ratio, degree of African or American acculturation, size of slaveholdings, master treatment, and epidemiological environment).
The proximity of mates greatly determined the frequency of childbirth among slave women. In New York, where husbands and wives commonly lived apart, fertility may have been depressed by irregular visitation and sexual contact. The stability of slave unions could also be disrupted by sales which separated partners beyond regular travelling distance. Births could be suspended for several years after separation from a mate before a new relationship was established. As an example, Pomp and Dorcas were a separatedly owned slave couple. Dorcas was owned by Peter Hallock for the ten years during which she produced offspring, while Pomp was held by John Corwin in l768 in the same town as Dorcas--his subsequent ownership history is unknown. Although unable to live together from September l764 (the date of initial conception) to November l2, l775, Pomp and Dorcas continued to produce children together as man and wife. Based on the dates of baptism of their six children,20 Dorcas's median interval between births was thirty‑two months. This slow childbearing pattern may have reflected their separate residence and the relative infrequency of contact between spouses held by different masters:
Parents Child Date of Baptism Since Last Birth
Pomp and Dorcas Primus June 2, 1765 ...
Pomp and Dorcas Juda October 23, 1768 41 months
Pomp and Dorcas Zipporah July 1, 1770 20 months
Dorcas Tabitha June 6, 1773 35 months
Pomp and Dorcas Pomp and Lymus November 12, 1775 29 months
Where slave spouses were owned together, it is likely that the interval between births was shorter. York and Jenne were a slave couple owned together by the minister of the First Church in Huntington over a seven year period.21 They had six children during these years, three of whom died at or shortly after birth. The median spacing between Jenne's births was seventeen months; she delivered children l2, 20,l7, l2, and 20 months apart:
Children Date of Birth
Jupiter December ll, l746
Judith December 6, l747
Peter August ll, l749
Mortuus January 4, l750/5l
Mortuus, Secundus January l7, l75l/52
Priscilla September 8, l753
(died October 8)
The short interval between the births of Jupiter and Judith is unexplained--Jupiter may have died in the interim. The twelve months which separated the births of "Mortuus" and "Mortuus Secundus" reflected the death of the first child and the ease with which pregnancy was accomplished in the absence of normal breastfeeding, which has a prophylactic effect on conception. Jenne's short spacing cycle may indicate a more normal birth pattern for slave women in a non‑contraceptive population where husbands and wives lived together and had regular sexual contact.
Sue, a slave belonging to the minister of the Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, gave birth to six children over an eleven year period:22
Parent Child Date of Birth Last Birth
Sue Phillis June 8, l763
Sue Margery December 22, l765 30 months
[Cato and Sue Married] [August l8, l768]
Sue Bilhah July 25, 1769 43 months
Sue Aaron November 8, l770 l6 months
Sue Lettice September 23, l772 22 months
Cato and Sue Olive April l9, l774 l9 months
Sue's first two children may have been from different fathers--she may have only settled into regular sexual activity and childbearing after marriage to Cato. It took two months for Sue to become pregnant after her wedding on August 18, l768; she delivered Bilhah eleven months after the marriage. Cato's legal status and residence are unknown--only with the birth of their last known child did the reverend list both Cato and Sue as the parents, although all four were presumably his children. Sue's median spacing interval between births was twenty‑two months. After her marriage to Cato, however, her pattern became shorter and more regular. The median spacing for her deliveries after marriage was nineteen months, indicating either cohabitation or more regular visitation after formal marriage.
Apart from the frequency of sexual contact with mates, the length of time that women breastfed their babies also determined the spacing of pregnancies. The contraceptive effect of a year of lactation delays the prospects of pregnancy until from thirteen to fifteen months after the birth of the last child, acting to spread out deliveries to every two years. When intervals of only a little over one year occurred between births, it usually indicated the death of the older child at or soon after birth and the early cessation of breastfeeding.23 As an example, Cort Lake's slave Bett gave birth to five children between l80l and l809, at intervals of 22, 25, 25, and 26 months apart.24 The shorter twenty‑two month span was the result of the death of her first child Heck at precisely one year of age. She gave birth ten months later, having stopped breastfeeding at twelve instead of her usual pattern of approximately fifteen months. John Tysen's slave Bet bore four children between l805 and l8l0, spaced l9, 24, and 23 months apart.25 The date of death of her first child Chat is unknown, but Bet conceived again ten months after Chat was born. Breastfeeding and its contraceptive effect lasted only from seven to nine months in this case, considerably less than Bet's usual lactation period of a little over a year.
In eighteenth‑century Europe and North America, white women commonly gave birth every two years since they breastfed their children for one year in the interim. Nineteenth‑century American‑born slave women also probably breastfed for only one year, which led to the birth of children from two to 2.9 years apart.26 Studies of eighteenth‑century slaves in Maryland have concluded that newly arrived slave women continued the common African practice of nursing children for two to three years and abstaining from intercourse during this period. This depressed the birthrate among immigrant black women as it did in the West Indies, where the greater survival of African‑influenced prolonged breastfeeding produced spacing intervals between surviving children of from three to four years.27
The number of months that slave women breastfed infants partly depended on their degree of cultural adaptation. Where African traditions were still strong, black women nursed their children for periods of time that initially exceeded, but then eventually approached that of white North American women as they became assimilated. New York slave women in the l799 to l826 period gave birth a median of twenty‑eight months apart; nineteen months intervened between a birth and the next conception. This indicates a breastfeeding period of from sixteen to eighteen months which was longer than the black and white mainland North American custom of one year of breastfeeding but was significantly shorter than the two to three years of nursing found among African women. The action of one slaveholder seemed to acknowledge the long breastfeeding pattern of his slave woman. William Fowler, in l747, bequeathed his daughter a negro child which he "reserved of the wench [he] let James Rundall have, to be delivered when l8 months old."28 The child was to be separated from its mother only when old enough to be weaned.
The extended breastfeeding practiced by New York slave women suggests a retention of African customs, tempered, however, by the shorter nursing habits of local white women. Over 70 percent of the slaves imported into New York between l742 and l774 arrived directly from Africa. This late and heavy influx of Africans in the years before the Revolution served to re‑enforce African ways in the black community. African women born in the l750s and brought to New York began to bear children (at age eighteen) from l768 to l778 through l795 to l805 (until age forty‑five). Their daughters born in America between l768 and l805, were the mothers of the children born between l799 and l826. Many of these women, having been raised by African mothers, continued to breastfeed for long periods of time in the early nineteenth century in New York. African ways of mothering children were handed down from mother to daughter; in this way they were able to persist over several generations in New York. Sojourner Truth (born in l797) recalled that her mother, Ma‑Ma Betts, sang African songs to soothe crying babies or make work go faster. Ma‑Ma Betts, even though she did not understand the meaning of the words, retained songs that she had learned from her own mother, who had been born on the Coast of Guinea.29
How often New York slave women produced children can be determined by a study of slave women who gave birth between l799 and l826; they were the last slave mothers to bear children in New York State (slavery was terminated by law in l827). The bill passed on March 29, l799, stipulated that the children of slave women born after July 4, l799 would be born free but owed twenty‑five or twenty‑eight years of service to their mothers' masters. It also required masters to register in writing with the town clerks the name, sex, and age of all children born to their slave women.30 Penalties were specified in case of failure to deliver such certificates within the first nine or twelve months after birth.31
A total of 7l6 owners in the southern six counties of New York registered the births of l,499 children between l799 and l826 with an average of 2.l infants reported per owner.32 A little over half (56.4 percent) of the masters registered only one child each, 20.4 percent registered two children, and 23.2 percent reported from three to seventeen children born to their slave women over this period. The small number of children registered per owner reflected a variety of circumstances. Since most New York slaveholders only possessed from one to three slaves, most probably had no more than one adult woman able to produce children at any given time. While a slave woman normally gave birth to more than one child in a twenty‑eight‑year period, frequent changes in ownership meant that each of her children was registered by a different owner. Masters who reported larger numbers of children either retained individual slave women over extended periods of time or were bigger slaveholders with several women of childbearing age.
The annual number of children whose births were registered rose from l799 to l800, remained at a peak from l80l to l804, then slowly declined through l826.33 Numbers reported during l799 were low because the child registration program began on July 4 rather than at the beginning of the year. The spurt in the numbers of children of slaves registered as born from l800 to l804 partly reflected better and more regularized record keeping procedures by town clerks as the process of registration became established among both owners and local officials. It mainly, however, reflected the popular option available to owners of abandoning unwanted children; such owners had to register the births of children prior to abandoning them legally to overseers of the poor. Owners may have been less fastidious about complying with the registration law once the abandonment program ended in l804. The steady decline in the numbers of children certified as born to slave women from l805 to l826 was also a function of the widespread voluntary manumission of adult slaves between l785 and l827‑‑there were progressively smaller numbers of adult female slaves left to produce children during these years.
The birth registration documents provide information on the childbearing patterns of a large proportion of all slave women who gave birth during these years in towns where data was available in the southern six counties of New York.34 The mothers of 627 of the l,499 children born l799 to l826 were unidentifiable; they were classified as miscellaneous births.35 The distribution of the other 872 births is as follows:
Number of Women Number of Children Total Number
Giving Birth Delivered Per Woman Of Children
470 l 470
84a 2 l68
32b 3 96
l9c 4 76
l0 5 50
2 6 l2
Total 6l7 ... 872
aIn five of these cases, women gave birth only one time, to a set of twins. This reduces the sample of women giving birth twice to 79 (and the number of children they bore to l58) for purposes of determining childbirth spacing patterns.
bTwo additional women gave birth three times, but produced twins at their third deliveries. They are counted here as having borne four children, but in the sample of birth spacing patterns are counted as having three separate births, totalling thirty‑four women.
cTwo of these nineteen women gave birth to four children, but only delivered three times, producing a set of twins at one of the deliveries. This reduced the spacing sample to seventeen women.
The 872 children born to the sample of 6l7 mothers (an average of l.4 children per woman) do not represent the total number of children born to these women during their entire lives. The large proportion of women who gave birth only one known time36 reflects the instability of ownership; these women were probably not kept long enough for the master to register more than one of their births. The inability to trace individual women over time means that when they were sold to new owners, the mothers appeared statistically as different women giving birth to single children. The apparent numbers of children born to individual women between l799 and l827 are also misleading: if a woman was freed during these years, the births of her post‑freedom children were not registered by any owners. The births of children to these same women either before July 4, l799, or after July 4, l827, would also fail to be recorded as they occurred outside the years of the gradual emancipation program. Additionally, stillborn births were not registered, some slave child births were never reported, and the records of some that were recorded no longer survive.
Since analysis of the spacing between births is not possible for women bearing only single known children, the sample of women is reduced to the l42 women who gave birth from two to six times each, to a total of 392 children. These women were held by the same slaveholder for extended periods of time; women who were held long enough to deliver five or six children experienced the greatest continuity of ownership. The median spacing between births for the l42 women was twenty‑eight months, with variations found in the spacing patterns for women who gave birth to different numbers of children.37 The model of twenty‑eight months between births is based on the patterns of slave women living under largely unknown marital circumstances.38 Some lived with husbands, some lived apart from their spouses, and some had husbands who died or were sold away during their childbearing years:
Total Number Combined
of Spacing Number of
Total Intervals Spacings
Number Number of Number of Between for All Median
of Children Births Births Women in Spacing
Women Born Per Woman Per Woman This Sample (Months)
79 158 2 1 79 31
34 104a 3 2 68 28
17 68 4 3 51 30
10 50 5 4 40 25
2 12 6 5 10 32.5
Total 142 392 2‑6 1‑5 248 28
aTwo of these 34 women gave birth to twins at their third deliveries, accounting for the two extra children.
New York slave women also gave birth according to seasonal rhythms. A study of 3,2l6 whites in Middlesex County, Virginia, l65l to l746, and of other colonial American, Swedish, Canadian, and French populations in the l632 to l790 period shows that births peaked in January, February and March, declining to a deep low in June. This was the most common seasonal pattern for pre‑industrial births for "at least a large segment of the Western world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."39 In contrast, the Middlesex County, Virginia study found entirely different birth patterns for black women, with peaks in May, June, and July--the period of lowest white births.
Since New York slaves were not involved in intensive single crop cultivation, the seasonal work rhythms which influenced the childbearing patterns of southern slaves did not apply in the North. A sample is available of the dates of birth of l,355 of the l,499 children born to slave women between l799 and l826 in the southern six counties of New York. It indicates that these black women fit the white seasonal birth pattern rather than patterns more common to southern slave women. As table 1 shows, New York slave women produced a clustering of births in February, March, and April, plumetting to a low in May, June, and July (the months when the most conceptions took place). Black and white New Yorkers both labored at variegated tasks on family farms, in urban trades, or at household chores; they experienced similar routines of nutrition, climatic change, and work. These environmental factors encouraged a
INSERT TABLE 1 HERE
similarity in biological rhythms between the two races which may not have existed in the South due to the concentrated planting and harvesting cycle for the black race in large‑scale agriculture.
* * * * *
New York slave women began to bear children at approximately age seventeen. Assuming a biological fertility span of twenty‑eight years lasting from age seventeen until age forty‑five, with a spacing pattern between births of twenty‑eight months, the average woman could have produced twelve children during her reproductive lifetime (336 months/28 months). Most New York slave women never bore the full number of children possible in this biological model of maximum fertility. From data on the registrations of births of children to 6l7 slave women between l799 and l826, 470 gave birth to only a single known child, 84 produced two children, and the other 63 women bore from three to six children each. In New York church records, l639 to l827, no more than six children were ever baptized from the same slave mother.40 Although one New York slave reportedly gave birth to twenty‑three children,41 a variety of factors worked to limit the number of children born to the average slave woman to a probable maximum of six--and often far fewer--during her childbearing career.42
Imbalanced sex ratios and the random distribution of adult slaves into white households may have prevented some women from ever finding lifelong mates with whom to regularly produce children. It is possible that as many as 20 percent of New York slave women never bore children at all.43 Intermittent health problems, miscarriages, and stillbirths further reduced the number of live births per woman. The latter years of the reproductive cycle were also less fruitful and probably produced fewer than one child every twenty‑eight months as fertility diminished in the late thirties.
Slavery could dramatically reduce the frequency of birth. The number of children produced by black couples was affected by the proximity of enslaved spouses, regularity of contact, visitation rights, involuntary dissolution of marriages by sale, as well as by dietary and work patterns established by owners. The common separate residence of slave spouses cut down on the birthrate and the regularity of the twenty‑eight month pattern. Sporadic visitation of spouses resulted in longer intervals between births for individual women at different times in their lives. If a man was only able to visit his wife monthly, intercourse would not provide as many pregnancies as would regular sexual activity. A gap of several years between births could result from the sale of a spouse with an interval before a new mate was found.
The number of children born to New York slave women may have been further reduced by owner behavior. In contrast to the eagerness with which some southern masters anticipated and actively promoted additions to their slave labor force, masters in New York and New England regarded infants as burdensome and undesirable.44 Unwanted slave children represented only expense, overcrowding, and noise in small slaveholdings where usually from only one to three adult slaves were required as domestic servants, farm laborers, or as workers for urban craftsmen and small merchants.45 Children under the age of six were dependents who required food, attention, and shelter. They had little market value and were therefore possessions of almost no worth to owners until they reached an age of still‑limited usefulness but increased salability at between six and twelve years. Owners could be saddled with large numbers of slave children from even one or two fecund women, representing a serious encumbrance to a small slaveholder. John A. Meserole, a Bushwick farmer, had eleven children born to two slave women, Cate and Sarah, from l800 to l8l7.46 Nicoll Floyd of Brookhaven registered the births of seventeen children born to an unknown number of his slave women between l800 and l825, swelling the number of blacks on his fortunately large estate.47
Not only did owners have to bear the maintenance costs of rearing slave children, but periodic pregnancy, nursing, and the care of young infants reduced the work output of slave mothers.48 Masters may have also feared the total loss of their investment through death during childbirth. When Ruth Ward of Eastchester sold a sixteen‑year‑old slave Betty Halley in l806 to John Peter De Lancey of Mamaroneck, she stipulated that Betty was to be freed at age twenty‑four. They agreed, however, that "if Betty should have a child or children during her servitude, she shall serve an additional year for every child before she is entitled to her freedom." De Lancey sold her a year later with the same manumission proviso and the same prohibition on childbearing to Peter Underhill of New York City.49 Betty was to be penalized for bearing children before age twenty‑four; she had to compensate her owner for each period of diminished labor due to pregnancy, post‑pregnancy recuperation, and childcare by an additional year of slavery.
Any owner interference in the breeding practices of slaves in New York would only have discouraged pregnancies and further depressed the birthrate. Several masters sold their slave women solely because they bore children.50 One advertisement, placed on February l4, l774, in the New York Gazette, offered for sale "a healthy, strong negro woman, about 29 years of age, with three healthy children. . . . The only reason of her being sold is that it is inconvenient to the owner to keep a breeding wench." Another owner capitalized on the sterility of his slave as a selling point, describing for sale "a young wench age 29, that drinks no strong drink and gets no children. . . ."51
All of the above factors resulted in a low black birth rate which was reflected in the low ratio of black children to women. Healthy rates of natural reproduction are indicated when the ratio of children to all women is at least l.6 and when the ratio of children to fertile women aged fourteen to forty‑five years approaches two, providing future replacements for all adults in the population.52 Comparisons of black and white fertility rates in New York53 displayed in table 2 indicate that black fertility was low in the years from l703 to l723.54 In l703, there were 2.2 children per white woman, and only 1.2 children per black woman. In 1703, 51.6 percent of the white population was composed of children, and only 34.7 percent of the black population. The black population showed a high absolute proportion of children in l73l and l737/8 and an improved ratio of children to women.55 Black fertility peaked between l746 and l77l; the black population grew younger during the heaviest years of slave importation. It was inflated by the influx of young new slaves aged ten to sixteen years rather than solely by successful natural reproduction. The overall black population l703 to l830 did not achieve a higher rate of natural reproduction.56 Healthier proportions of children and greater numbers of children per woman were achieved in the mid to late eighteenth century, but by l820 both of these indices declined absolutely and in relation to the white
INSERT TABLE 2 HERE
Low birth rates meant that small numbers of black children were born to each woman; infant and child mortality cut down on the numbers who would survive to maturity. Assuming an infant mortality rate of 25 percent, with an equal mortality rate of 25 percent for children past infancy, women who produced as many as twelve children would see only 6.7 of them survive to adulthood. For the average New York slave woman who gave birth to no more than six children, 3.4 reached maturity. Many New York slave women never bore as many as six children, resulting in even smaller numbers of offspring per woman living into adulthood. The selective importation of male slaves and resultant shortage of fertile black women (78 percent of all adult women)58 in New York also suppressed total black population growth. Although the sexual imbalance was not as severe as in the Caribbean colonies where the scarcity of females caused net population decline rather than growth, the shortage of black women in New York undoubtedly slowed the growth of the population. It is also likely that birth rates remained low in New York because so many of the women were new immigrants brought by successive waves of importation until the American Revolution; newcomers to enslavement and a new environment produced fewer children due to greater morbidity, mortality, and psychological alienation.
The separate residence of slave spouses, sales which separated mates, prolonged breastfeeding, unbalanced sex ratios, newness of imported Africans, high infant and child mortality rates and master disapproval of pregnancies contributed to the slow natural annual growth rate of the slave population in New York. New York's black population increased because of both natural reproduction and importations. Heavy slave importations between l700 and l774 accounted for much of the growth. Thomas Davis analyzed the growth pattern of the early black population between l70l and l726.59 From l703 to l723, the slave population increased by 3,788 persons; 2,395 blacks were imported from l70l to l726, during roughly the same period.60 Imports therefore accounted for slightly more than 6 out of every l0 (63.2 percent) of new blacks in New York during these two decades.61 New York colony's slave population grew from 2,l70 slaves in l698 to l9,893 slaves by the year l77l (an increase of l7,723 blacks). During this same approximate period, l700 to l774, 6,532 slaves were imported,62 indicating that 36.9 percent of the population growth was due to the slave trade rather than to natural increase.63
As table 3 shows, between l698 and l77l the black population in the southern six counties of New York grew at an average rate of 2.4 percent per year64 which included both imports and natural reproduction. An annual growth rate of 2.5 percent will double a population every twenty‑five or thirty years;65 at an average annual growth rate of
INSERT TABLE 3 HERE
2.4 percent New York colony's population expanded accordingly. Growth was highest in the l698 to l723 period of peak importations; the population almost tripled in twenty‑five years.66 Growth rates were slower between l723 and l749 but rose again during the l749 to l77l period due to increased imports in the l750s and l760s.
Years Time Span Population Increase Increase
l698‑l723 25 years 2,l70 to 6,l7l 2.8 times
l723‑l749 26 years 6,l7l to l0,592 l.7 times
l749‑l77l 22 years l0,592 to l9,893 l.9 times
Without the massive infusion of imported slaves, however, New York's black population grew only sluggishly. If 36.9 percent of New York colony's black growth between l698 and l77l was due to imports, then the black population expanded at an average annual growth rate of only l.5 percent based on natural reproduction alone.67 After slave importations into New York were prohibited on February 22, l788, New York's black population grew at an average annual rate of l.7 percent from l790 to l830 (an average of the four decadal percentages for average annual growth l800 to l830). This figure is similar to the projected growth rate of l.5 percent per year between l698 and l77l based solely on natural reproduction.
New York's black population grew slowly in comparison to either the white population in New York68 or to the overall black population in the United States (which mainly reflected southern blacks). Reynolds Farley found that the black population in the United States grew at an average annual rate of 4 percent between l700 and l790 including slave imports, compared to 2.4 percent in the southern six counties of New York during roughly the same period. Imports fell after the Revolution and ceased after l807. From l776 to l860 the black population in the United States grew at a rate in excess of 2 percent per year due to natural increase,69 compared to l.7 percent in the southern six counties of New York (l790 to l830 period). Black fertility in New York may have been suppressed after l790 by the disruptions of the voluntary manumission process and by the economic necessity of many newly freed blacks to continue to live apart from their mates as resident workers in white households.
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Since children were born as the property of their mothers' masters, slave fathers generally had far less access to their children than did slave mothers. Fathers infrequently lived with their own children except for those fortunate enough to be held by their wives' owners at the time of birth or later held by one of their children's owners regardless of the placement of the mother. When New York State required all owners to record officially the births of children to their slave women between l799 and l827, the registration documents routinely listed the name, sex, and date of birth of the children and very often the name of the mothers. The names or identities of the fathers were almost never included since they were irrelevant to both the legal status and living circumstances of their children and because they were most often owned by another slaveholder.70
Since children followed the legal condition of their mothers, both slave, born free from l799 to l827 but obligated to service, and free black fathers married to slave women were completely excluded from the legal processes which determined the status, whereabouts, and welfare of their children. These husbands and fathers had no traditional standing in law. Joshua E. Birch of New York City recorded the birth on February l9, l803, of a child, Ann Maria Stevenson, to his slave Nan, the wife of a free black named Joseph Stevenson.71 Joseph Stevenson was able to give his last name to his daughter, but even though a free man he could not prevent Birch from abandoning the child to the overseers of the poor. The only way that he could legally intervene and determine Ann Maria's disposition until she achieved freedom at age eighteen would have been to purchase her remaining period of service and set her free.
In spite of their legal disabilities and their forced separation from their children, slave and free black fathers of slave offspring often maintained some role in their children's lives. Fathers (including both slaves and free men) were acknowledged in 72.6 percent of 4l2 sampled child baptisms where any parents were listed in the church register, l639 to l827, with or without the mothers of the children. Even though children were the property of their mothers' owners, many infants were referred to only in terms of their paternal family. Frank was baptized on May 29, l79l, and was listed as "the son of Frank, the property of William Lawrence Esq. and his wife."72
Many slave and free fathers of slave or bound to service children exercised whatever power was available to them over the well‑being of their children. They worked to maintain affection and contact across the barrier imposed by slavery. In a case debated by the Justices of the Court of New York City on August 5, l8ll, Abraham E. Brower charged that Charles Miller had enticed away his indented servant.73 The servant in question, at age seventeen, had bound herself out to service with Brower by the consent of her slave father and without the signed permission of her free mother. The judgment was for the defendant--since the consent of the slave father was not legally binding, the indenture contract with Brower was breakable. Although both she and her mother were free, this black girl maintained her relationship with her slave father and looked to him as a personal source of parental authority which he could not fulfill legally.
When slave spouses Ma‑Ma Betts and Bomefree were freed at the death of their master, their daughter Sojourner (between age nine and eleven years) was auctioned to a new owner. On the morning that she was sold her parents stood by the gate and whispered to Sojourner that they would come and see her. Although Sojourner lived in the same area as her parents, Ma‑Ma Betts never visited her daughter. Sojourner was only given permission to travel to her mother three or four times before Ma‑Ma Betts's death five years later. Not until several months after her sale was the infirm and elderly Bomefree able to find a ride through the snow with a white man who was travelling to the vicinity of Sojourner's new home. Sojourner told her father of her ill‑treatment and unhappiness and begged him to find her a new owner. Her faith in her free father's ability to intervene on her behalf and protect her was rewarded; Bomefree persuaded a local Dutchman to buy his daughter.74
Slaveowners were aware of the contacts preserved between fathers and their children. Cato, a fifty‑year‑old slave held in New Jersey, ran away from his owner. The advertisement for his return described his likely destination: "It is supposed he has gone to Long Island as he has a child living there with Mr. Jacques de Nise."75 One Brookhaven master suspected that his thirteen‑year‑old negro boy Jethro would head for "his reputed father, Jethro, part Indian," who lived on the east part of the island.76 Robert Snow of Brooklyn was quite certain about the circumstances surrounding his free servant's disappearance. The sixteen‑year‑old runaway, Martha Thomas, had recently been indented to Snow for five years by her father Thomas Thomas: "It is supposed she has gone off with her father's knowledge and advice. He occupies a small farm at New Lotts, about six miles from this town, and it is supposed she may be there."77 Children often looked to their fathers, whether slave or free, as destinations when seeking shelter from slavery or as alternative sources of authority and protection other than their masters.
While many fathers (now and presumably then) tried to avoid parental responsibilities, many other fathers tried to perform a variety of protective roles for their families. After buying their own freedom, many attempted to gain custody over their children, pressured owners to promise to eventually free their wives and children, or purchased the freedom of their families, person by person.78 David Byass was freed on January 23, l792, at age twenty‑one by Robert Shedden;79 thirteen days earlier Alexander McComb had freed his son Charles. McComb, however, still held David's wife and one other child in slavery. Two years later David Byass paid McComb 45 for the freedom of his wife Suzette and child Judy.80 Charles, who presumbly had gone to live with his father when freed, would now be joined by his mother and sister in a free family reunited by the efforts of the father.
In an unusual arrangement, a set of free black parents were used as temporary custodians for their slave child. The free black father, Peter Sebally, bought his wife Betty for $l50 on February 9, l80l, from Theodorus Van Wyck, who at the same time also assigned all of his rights to Betty's infant child over to Peter. One year later, Van Wyck and Peter reached an agreement concerning Peter's older son Joseph, who still remained as Van Wyck's slave:81
Peter Sebally agrees to board, lodge, clothe and maintain his son Joseph, who is Van Wyck's slave, for two years, so that Van Wyck shall be at no expense during that time for Joseph's maintenance.
[Van Wyck] agrees, in consideration of the above to give said Joseph, son of Peter, his freedom when he arrives at age twenty‑eight.
Joseph had probably been born before July 4, l799, and was therefore a slave rather than a free‑born child, who owed service only until age twenty‑eight. Joseph was either still too young to be of labor value, or Van Wyck had no need of his services during the next two years. With no slave parents left in the household to supervise Joseph, Van Wyck took advantage of Peter and Betty's natural desire to care for their child in order to dispose of Joseph for two years without permanently losing the right to his future services. In return for their temporary board, the parents gained the freedom of their son at age twenty‑eight instead of forseeable lifetime servitude.
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Black parents, whether slave or free, were able to give their children one lifelong attribute--a name. It is likely that very few owners selected given names for the children of their slaves; they left this parental and familial decision to the blacks themselves.82 Slave children in New York were frequently named for blood kin, either parents or other relatives, indicating a respect for ancestry and a sense of family. Data was available on the first names of both parents in a sample of 252 black children baptized in the southern six counties between 1639 and 1827; 19.4 percent of the children had the same name as their parents.83 Assuming that no more than one child in a family can bear the same name (except in cases of infant or childhood deaths), and that therefore no more than two children in a family can have a parent's name, the highest possible percent of all children bearing parents' names is far below 100. Children were named for their parents in all time periods, but most commonly in the 1706 to 1790 period when most baptized blacks were slaves (rather than of unknown status in the 1639 to 1684 period or mainly free in the 1791 to 1827 period). Slave parents may have been particularly anxious to pass on their names as a link to their enslaved children who were likely to be separated from them before adulthood. In the years 1639 to 1684, 11.8 percent of baptized black children were named for parents, 25 percent in the years 1706 to 1790, and 19.5 percent in the years 1791 to 1827:
Child Names 1639‑1684 1706‑1790 1791‑1827 1639‑1827
Named for mother 3 7 8 18
Named for father 3 10 18 31
Not named for parent 45 51 107 203
51 68 133 252
Research on naming patterns among southern slaves indicates that two in five, or 40 percent, of children were named for blood relatives. Sons were often named for their fathers or their paternal ancestors, possibly as an effort on the part of blacks to preserve ties to slave men who were likely to be separated from their wives and children. Daughters were almost never named for their mothers,84 a taboo that did not apply in New York. If a full record of blood kin was available for this sample of New York children, 19.4 percent of whom were named directly for their parents alone, it is likely that a similar 40 percent would also have been named for blood relatives.85 As in the South, New York slave children were named for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and dead siblings.86
Many slave and free black parents recently emerged from slavery named both a son for the father and a daughter for the mother. When Henry Cole, a free black man, wrote his will in 1837, he and his wife Teaner had six living children; two of them were Henry and Teener.87 Zipporah and Brister Youngs were slaves in the Youngs family and were buried near their former owners at their deaths in 1806 and 1839. Their children, also buried at the Youngs family site, were Phillis, Brister, Zipporah, Mary, Silas, and Hiram.88 At his death in 1756, Abraham Willitt's holding included an old negro woman Jeaney, an old negro man Harry, a young negro woman Jeaney, and a negro child Harry. It is likely that the younger Jeaney was named for her mother, and that the child Harry was named for the older Harry (a father or grandfather).89 Two children baptized at the Sands Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Brooklyn were named for their same‑sex parent. On August 4, 1816, Titus Rosavelt was baptized; his parents were listed as Titus and Betty. On January 4, 1822, Mary was presented for baptism as the daughter of Adam and Mary Marshal.90
Several children were named for the sponsors or witnesses present at their baptisms; black witnesses were probably relatives, close friends, or slaves held by the same owner as the parents. Abraham, the son of free negroes Joseph Mattijsen and Annaatje, was baptized at the Lutheran Church in New York City on May 29, 1748. The witnesses were a black couple married in 1729, Abraham Matthijsen and Jora (probably the grandparents), after whom Abraham was named.91 Mary Elizabeth Bovee, born on November 9, 1794, to her slave mother Susan Clara, was named for her baptismal sponsor Mary Elizabeth, a "negress and slave." On March 2, 1795, John Louis, a slave, was born to parents who were listed as Telemachus and Mary Nativity; the sponsor at his baptism was John Nativity, a black relative.92 Where information on black family members is more complete, extended naming patterns emerge.93 Slaves Venture Smith and his wife Meg had four children: Hannah, Solomon, Cuff, and Solomon. Solomon, born in 1756, later died at age seventeen; the last son Solomon, born in 1773, was named for his recently deceased brother. When Solomon married and had children, he named one daughter Hannah after his deceased older sister, the child's aunt. Cuff also married and had several children; one son was named Cuff after his father and another son was named Venture Jr., called Young Venture, after his paternal grandfather.94 Some slave naming patterns presented more oblique methods of family affiliation. Annanias Doty of Oysterbay registered the births of three children to his female slave, from September 17, 1810, to November 8, 1814.95 The boys, Moses Frank Doty, Morgan Frank Doty, and Joseph Frank Doty all bore their owner's last name, and all three had the same middle name. If Frank was their father, this was their mother's effort to connect them to their paternal family.
The vast majority of black parents gave their children English names, with only a sprinkling of Dutch and African names. The African names that appeared in New York records from the 1690s through the 1820s largely belonged to immigrant slaves who had been born in Africa.96 Very few Africans either retained their own original names or passed on native names to their children. Owners pressured slaves to use easily pronouncable names; newcomers' African names were often rendered into English or Dutch equivalents. Slaves also needed to learn English or Dutch in order to serve their owners and to communicate with each other; this linguistic and cultural adaptation extended to the naming of offspring. Even the first slaves in New Amsterdam, 1626 to 1664, bore Spanish, Dutch, or English names; they passed on similar names to their children.97
Research on black given names for all American colonies or states combined indicates that most slaves had non‑African names. In the years 1619 to 1799 only 7.5 percent of blacks had African names and only 2.3 percent in the years 1800 to 1864. A study of free northern black soldiers who fought in the American Revolution indicates that 9.4 percent had African names.98 These patriots obviously included black men who had been brought in during the heavy African importations of the 1740s through early 1770s. The overwhelming absence of African names in the black population indicates that African names such as Cudjo quickly became Anglicized into Joe, Quaco became Jack, and Haga turned into Hagar among the immigrant population. Some names which were similar to African names were easily accepted by blacks. The common West African practice of naming children for the day of the week on which they were born meant that a girl born on Friday was given the name Pheba or Phibbi; this name evolved into Phoebe in New York.99
Another reason for the dearth of African names in the black population was that African names were not usually passed down to new generations. The sample of 1,499 children born to slave women in the southern six counties of New York between 1799 and 1826 bore very few African names--but some African traces remained. A small minority of slave mothers bestowed such African or African‑derived names on their children as Phebe, Coffe, Cuffey, or Cuff (a West African day name for a male born on Friday), Mat, Mando, Commany, Bot, Yafee, Roose, Abbe, Yaft, Neen, Teen and Jake. Although these African names survived in the black community, they had mostly lost their traditional significance. Out of eleven girls named Phoebe born to slave women between 1800 and 1823, none were born on Fridays. African naming practices were more intact for three of the eight boys named Cuffey born between 1801 and 1819‑‑they were born on Fridays.
Most slave mothers gave their children names which would better enable them to survive and function in white New York than would African names. Biblical names such as Hannah, Mary, Sarah, Rachel, Samuel, John, and Joseph were popular, as were such classical names as Cato, Caesar, Pompey, Jupiter, and Dianna. Slave children were commonly given Anglo‑Saxon names such as William, Tom, Charles, George, Harry, Benjamin, Margaret, Elizabeth, Susan, Betsey, and Ann.100 Whites may have been contemptuous of African names--blacks may have absorbed this attitude and avoided giving their children names which were seen as badges of inferiority. White attitudes toward African names are revealed in the assertion of an early New Jersey antislavery writer that masters "accomodate their Slaves with such Names as these, Toby, Mando, Mingo, Jack, Hector and Hagar, and such like Names they give to their Dogs and Horses."101 While it is unlikely that masters either widely named slave children or gave them such African names as Mando and Mingo, they may well have regarded such names as alien or stereotypically black, and therefore as degrading.
In addition to first names, slave parents passed on family surnames to their children. The possession of a last name was probably widespread in the black population even though owners often did not know that their slaves had surnames and rarely listed slaves by their last names in official white documents.102 Out of 218 primary runaway slaves, eleven or 5 percent, had last names listed by the owner in his newspaper advertisement for their return. A sample of 245 individual slaves sold between 1660 and 1817 included only 23 whose last names were written down in the bill of sale (9.4 percent). The low proportion of last names among blacks who ran away or were sold reflected the fact that these groups were composed exclusively of slaves. In a sample of 807 black children and adults baptized from 1639 to 1827, only 13.1 percent had a last name recorded in the church register (only 3.4 percent in the 1706 to 1790 period when most blacks were slaves, rising to 25.6 percent in the 1791 to 1827 period, when many blacks were free). White church officials tended to list last names more commonly for free blacks than for slaves. In a sample of 813 black church marriages between 1641 and 1827, 73.6 percent of black spouses had last names listed in the church record because 86.3 percent of them were either free or of unknown status and probably free. The vast majority of the slave spouses, however, failed to have a last name listed.103 Even the surnames of free black heads of household in the 1790 to 1820 period were initially widely omitted from census records.104
Where slave surnames were recorded, they were generally personal black surnames different from those of their owners. All of the runaway slaves' last names were different from those of their masters, as were most of the slave spouses' last names listed in church records. In a sample of 1,876 slaves freed by deeds of manumission from 1701 to 1831, 544 (29 percent) had a last name recorded by their owner. Of these slaves who displayed a last name on the paper which conferred their freedom, a full 90.3 percent had last names different from those of their last owner. Almost all manumitted slaves with surnames had last names different from their final owners because they bore inherited black family surnames. Most black surnames originally came from white owners, but after one generation they became black family surnames which were passed down from parent to child.105
A few black surnames were African,106 but most were either of Dutch or English origin. It is probable that the celebrated twentieth‑century black photographer James Van Der Zee was the descendant of New York slaves who were held by Dutch owners named Van Der Zee; their last name survived as a black family name over 160 years later.107 As an example of the transformation of white family names into black ones, Benjamin Perine, a Staten Island slave was born in 1796 as the property of his mother's master, Rev. Peter I. Van Pelt. He was sold at age eighteen to a Mr. Ridgeway with whom he remained until legal freedom on July 4, 1827. He took neither of their names. His name Perine was that of a prominent white Staten Island family; it may also have been the last name of Benjamin's unknown black father. Perine had become a black family name.108 Many names of prestigious white families cropped up in church and census records after 1830 as black surnames; names like Ryers, Dehart, Crocheron, Guyon, Decker, and Barger had become black ones on Staten Island. Free black heads of household between 1790 and 1810 bore the names Floyd, Lloyd, Mott, Onderdonk, and Kissam on Long Island, Pell and Bartow in Westchester County, and Remsen in the town of Brooklyn. In Suffolk County church records from 1800 to 1860, some common black last names were Achilles, Plato, Cuffee, Cato, Rugg, Solomon, and Pharoah. These were probably all originally black slave first names which slowly evolved into or were used as last names also.
Evidence that slave parents were passing on surnames to their children (rather than that slave adults chose their own surnames) exists in the registrations of births of children to slave women, 1799 to 1826. Out of a sample of 1,499 slave children born 1799 to 1826, only 53, or 3.5 percent had a last name listed by their owners at the registration of their births. Fifty of the fifty‑three children had last names which were different from those of their masters. Although most of the children whose last names differed from their owners did not have their mothers' or fathers' last name recorded in the document, they most likely bore surnames given to them by their parents. In a small proportion of cases the surname of the slave mother (or a free father) was listed along with the child's surname, thereby establishing the parental origin of the name. Slaveowner Daniel Proudfit registered the birth of Eliza Vanhorne in 1804 to his slave woman Sarah Vanhorne. In one case a child had a last name different from both his owner and his mother (possibly his father's name): Peter Stryker registered the birth of Michael Pappan (possibly derived from Popo peoples of West Africa) to his slave woman Lavina Spader in 1819.109
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Many free blacks experienced the instability and lack of continuity which characterized parenthood for the majority of New York slaves. Many newly freed black families found it difficult to support their children and maintain independent households. Additionally, marriages between free and slave partners, which were increasingly common after 1790, produced a category of free parents who experienced diminished legal and practical rights over their children's welfare. Free fathers had no control over children born to their slave wives--these children were the property of the mothers' masters. Slave husbands could not give legal residence or protection to their free wives and children and could not substantially contribute to their material support. These parents continued to live apart--the free partner in his own residence or as a dependent employee in a white household and the slave partner with his master. Their children lived either with a free mother from whom they could not be separated, or with a slave mother from whom they could be sold away at any time. During the long process of voluntary, staggered manumission from 1785 to 1827, slave parents often attained freedom separately. When they rejoined to set up a free black‑headed household many still lived apart from children who remained elsewhere as slaves or as bound servants. Black parenthood only received legal recognition as late as 1809 in New York, when the law permitted free parents to take custody of and support children they had conceived while slaves.110
The last generation of children born to slave women in New York between 1799 and 1827 were born technically free but owed service to their mothers' masters until age twenty‑five or twenty‑eight (twenty‑one for those born between 1817 and 1827). When these blacks became parents from 1815 through as late as 1848 (when the last of such servants achieved independence), they also experienced a form (albeit milder) of slave parenthood. Married spouses continued to live apart with their respective masters; the fathers were usually separated from their children. Since the children were free, at least they could not be sold away from their bound‑to‑service mothers with whom they lived in her employer's household. Slave forms of parenthood survived long beyond the end of slavery in New York State.
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Parenthood for the female slave population of New York was a career which lasted from age seventeen until approximately age sixty, when the last child born to a woman (between age forty and forty‑five) reached age eighteen. Fatherhood lasted from the early twenties through the early sixties for slave men who generally married between age twenty and twenty‑five. As slave parents neared the end of the episodic childrearing phase of their lives, they also approached the end of their years of useful labor to their owners. Elderly parents had to look to their masters for care during old age since their enslaved adult children could not normally perform this traditional familial function.
1Jefferson, "Records of the First Church of Southold," NYGBR 65 (1934): 52.
2Town Book for Castletown for the entry of Black Children born of Slaves after July 1, 1799, p. 27, microfilm reel 49, NYHS. Barnes recorded two other births in 1819 and 1822 (p. 31) to an unnamed mother--they may have also been born to the mother of Dave and Sam. No father was listed for them.
3Ibid., pp. 2, 9, 17. It was unusual for the owner of the child's father to register the birth of a child to a slave woman. The child legally owed service to Cruser, who should have registered it rather than Mersereau.
4Journal of John Baxter of Flatlands, Long Island, 1790‑1826, vol. 1, LIHS; Flatlands Town Records and Miscellaneous Deeds 1661‑1831, pp. 5, 317; Flatlands Slave Records 1799‑1838, Register of the Children born of slaves after the 4th day of July 1799 within the town of Flatlands in Kings County in the State of New York agreeable to an Act Entitled an Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery passed the Legislature of this state the 29th day of March 1799, p. 7, St. Francis. These births are also noted in Baxter's journal. See p. below on Dianna's abandonment.
5"An Act to Incourage the Baptizing of Negro, Indian & Mulatto Slaves," October 21, 1706, in Lincoln, Johnson, and Northrup, eds., Colonial Laws of New York, 1:597‑98. All of the southern and New England colonies also treated slavery as an hereditary condition determined by the status of the mother. Greene, Negro in Colonial New England, p. 126.
6Will of John Jackson, Hempstead, August 26, 1724, Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 2:324‑26. Another testator also promised an unborn slave child to his daughter in his will, to be delivered at eighteen months of age. Will of William Fowler, North Castle, July 1, 1747, Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 4:138. The pre‑arranged disposition of unborn slave infants and the giving away of young children was also noted in New England. Greene, Negro in Colonial New England, p. 213.
7Will of Teunis Somarindick, New York City, March 21, 1796, Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 11:215; 15:6.
8Collections of the New‑York Historical Society, Letters and Papers of Cadwallader Colden, 1711‑1775, 9 vols. (New York: Printed for the Society, 1917‑1935), 1 (1711‑1729): 39. (hereafter cited as Coll. NYHS, Letters and Papers of Cadwallader Colden).
9On October 1, 1814, Cesar and Saran, both about age twenty‑two and both slaves of Richard Freeling were married. On October 4, 1815, "Tom a negro of Mr. John Fountain's about 23 [was married] with Sal, a negro of Mr. Barnt Lake, about 18 years old. With consent of both masters in writing." "Records of the United Brethren Congregation (Commonly Called Moravian), Staten Island, N.Y.," NYGBR 39 (1908): 178, 253; The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Marbletown against the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Kingston, May 1822, in Johnson, ed., Reports of Cases in Supreme Court of Judicature, 20:1‑3; George D.A. Combes, "Births, Marriages, and Deaths, Hempstead, Long Island, New York, 1847, 1848, 1849, 1852‑1863," NYGBR 55 (1924): 372, 374, 376, 377 (Carman‑Tredwell, May 22, 1847; Corse‑Jones, December 25, 1847; Jackson‑Jackson, June 24, 1848; Jackson‑Jackson, December 25, 1848); R. Vosburgh, ed., Records of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church on Staten Island, formerly Northfield, now the Reformed Dutch Church at Port Richmond, vol. 2 (n.p., 1923).
10Runaway Slave Ad, Long Island Star, 22 September 1813; Runaway Slave Ad, Loudon's New York Packet, 23 May 1785.
11Book of Negroes Inspected on the 30th November 1783 by Capt. Gilfillan of Armstrong on board the fleet laying near Staten Island, in the absence of the American Commissioners and Secretary, which numbers have since been regularly registered and certified by said two captains; Book of Negroes Registered and Certified after having been Inspected by the Commissioners appointed for his Excellency Sir Guy Carleton, General and Commander‑in‑Chief on board sundry vessels in which they were embarked previous to the time of sailing from the Port of New York between April 23 and July 31, 1783 (Book 1) and July 31 and November 30, 1783 (Book 2), British Headquarters Papers, Document 10427, Manuscript Room, New York Public Library.
12Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll, p.464, also noted the early age of most slave women at marriage in the South: "Many slaves, if not most, married in their mid‑teens. . . ."
13Ages of husbands were included in the ten slave or free black church marriages, runaway ads, and for sale notices listed above, in addition to the thirty black couples evacuated with the British troops in 1783. In six cases the spouses were the same age, in four cases the wives were older than their husbands, and in the majority of cases where husbands were older than their wives (thirty couples), the male was a median of six years older than his wife.
14Research on slave women in the South also indicates that fist births occurred between age seventeen and twenty. Gutman, Black Family, pp. 50, 114, 124, 171, calculated the age at first birth from small samples of slave women on several plantations. He found median ages of 17.7, 18.7, and 19.6 years and a general conclusion of from age seventeen to nineteen on a fourth plantation. Kulikoff, "Tobacco and Slaves," found the mean age of slave women at the conception of their first child to be between 17.5 and 18 years, translating into age 18.4 to 18.9 years at birth in the 1730 to 1750 period. Menard, "Maryland Slave Population: A Demographic Profile," analyzed the age at first birth for women listed in twenty estate inventories, 1658 to 1730; the average was 18.7 years. Klein and Engerman, "Fertility Differentials between Slaves," p. 367, described age twenty to twenty‑one as the beginning of the childbearing years for United States slave women. Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, p. 137, use a median age of 20.8 years at the birth of the first surviving child for southern slave women in the nineteenth century.
15No records comparable to southern plantation registers exist with systematic reportings of the ages of slave women at the birth of their children. Individual masters sometimes recorded the births of children to their slaves in the family Bible, but usually did not include the woman's age. Baptismal records do not list the age of the child's parents. Even when New York masters were required by law to register the births of all children born to their slave women between 1799 and 1827, they were not expected to (and never included) the age of the mothers. It was only when women were advertised for sale, sold, ran away, or were freed that their ages (along with the ages of any children who were also sold, taken in flight, or freed) were mentioned in written documents.
16As an example, Francis Fetard of Manhattan freed Phillis, age twenty‑nine, and her four children, aged ten, eight, three years, and the youngest at ten months old. Her age at first birth was calculated to be nineteen years--it is unknown whether any earlier children were ever born to Phillis. Francis Fetard, Manumission of Phillis and children, May 6, 1797, Register of manumission of slaves. . . , p. 48, MCNY. In subtracting the age of the oldest known child from the woman's age to determine age at first birth, the woman was uniformly assumed to have just arrived at the age listed. A twenty‑year‑old woman with a fifteen‑month‑old child was treated as having just had her twentieth birthday, and gave birth at age eighteen (although in reality she may have been at the end of her twentieth year, and could have given birth at age nineteen rather than eighteen).
17 Van Der Zee, Sweet and Alien Land, p. 59. The father of the child born in 1638 was either a white Dutch West India Company official or the white mother's mulatto husband Anthony Jansen of Salee. The midwife testified that "the child is somewhat brown." Hershkowitz, "The Troublesome Turk," pp. 301‑2.
18Coll. NYHS, Letters and Papers of Cadwallader Colden 8:183; Greene, Negro in Colonial New England, p. 226. Childbirth care for white women during this period was also almost entirely in the hands of midwives. Claude Edwin Heaton, "Medicine in New York During the English Colonial Period, 1664‑1775," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 17 (1945): 35.
19Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, p. 137, found that slave women aged eighteen to thirty years whose children survived the first year of life gave birth to children approximately every two years. Kulikoff, "Tobacco and Slaves," found birth intervals of twenty‑five to twenty‑seven months for native‑born slave women in the second half of the eighteenth century. Klein and Engerman, "Fertility Differentials between Slaves," p. 368, summarized the literature on spacing between surviving children born to United States slave women and arrived at a composite model of 2.9 years (thirty‑three months). John Demos, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (New York: Oxford University Press paperback, 1973), p. 133, indicated that children in colonial Massachusetts were spaced two years apart.
20It is assumed that the dates of baptism closely followed the dates of birth. Unless some of the children were baptized long after birth, the schedule of baptisms provides a usable indication of Dorcas's childbearing pattern. The gap of forty‑one months between the births of Primus and Juda may have reflected a stillborn child in the interim, a baptism omitted from the church register, or a crisis in the living circumstances of Pomp and Dorcas. Joseph Petty, copier, Records of Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths at the Presbyterian Church in Mattituck, NYGBS; Joseph Petty, copier, Church Records of Aquebogue, L. I., NYGBS; Rev. Charles E. Craven, "Parish Registers of Mattituck and Aquebogue, 1751‑1809," A History of Mattituck, L.I. (New York: By the Author, 1906).
21"A Record of the Birth of the Negro Children of my servants York and Jenne," by Ebenezer Prime, Records of the First Church in Huntington, Rev. Ebenezer Prime, last page of church record. This record of births was particularly accurate due to Rev. Ebenezer Prime's ownership of the couple--it is unlikely that any births were overlooked.
22Sue was a slave of either Rev. Thomas Lewis (ministry 1763 to 1769) or Rev. Daniel Avery (ministry 1771 to 1772). Her children were born "in his house" at precisely recorded hours and were all baptized at birth. Their names were recorded in a list "Of Persons," in William A. Robbins, "The Records of the Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, Suffolk County, New York," NYGBR 44 (July 1913): 284.
23Demos, A Little Commonwealth, p. 133: Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, p. 137; Klein and Engerman, "Fertility Differentials between Slaves," p. 369. The shortest spacings in the sample of 248 birth intervals below (thirty were from nine to nineteen months) were probably a function of the death of the previous infant which curtailed the natural contraceptive effect of breastfeeding.
24Cort Lake, Registration of Slave Children, b. January 22, 1801, November 26, 1802, December 31, 1804, January 31, 1807, April 1, 1809, Gravesend--Births of Slaves 1799‑1819, pp. 7, 10, 15, 18, 20, St. Francis.
25John Tysen, Registration of Slave Children, b. February 19, 1805, September 10, 1806, September 12, 1808, August 10, 1810, Town Book for Castletown for the entry of Black Children born of Slaves after July 1, 1799, microfilm reel 49, pp. 10, 13, 16, 19 NYHS.
26Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, p. 137; Klein and Engerman, "Fertility Differentials between Slaves," pp. 369‑70.
27Kulikoff, "Tobacco and Slaves"; Menard, "Maryland Slave Population: A Demographic Profile," p. 41; Klein and Engerman, "Fertility Differentials between Slaves," pp. 368‑69.
28Will of William Fowler, North Castle, July 1, 1747, Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 4:138.
29 Bernard, Journey Toward Freedom, p. 8; Gilbert, narrator, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, p. 308.
30"An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery," March 29, 1799, Laws of New York State, 22nd Session, Chap. 62, vol. 4, pp. 388‑89. In 1817, the terms of compliance changed: owners had to register the births of such children by their first birthday or forfeit the child's service at age eighteen instead of twenty‑one. "An Act Relative to Slaves and Servants," March 31, 1817, Laws of New York State, 40th Session, Chap. 137, pp. 136‑44. The case of Griffin v. Potter, October 1935 in Catterall, ed., Judicial Cases Concerning Slavery, 4:390, concerns a black's right to freedom from service at age eighteen because his master failed to promptly register his birth in 1806.
31Owners widely complied with the provisions of this act. Dates of birth registration were available for 1,131 of the 1,499 children known to have been born to slave women in the southern six counties of New York between 1799 and 1826. Of this group, 979 were registered within the legal time limit (86.6 percent), while 152 (13.4 percent) were registered more than nine months (or one year) after the birth. The peak of registrations at the ninth month indicated a rush to comply with the law in effect from 1799 to 1817 which set the time limit at nine months. The group of registrations in months ten, eleven, and twelve represented some of the births from 1817 to 1826, when the time limit was changed to one year:
INSERT BAR GRAPH CHART SEE P. 460 ORIGINAL
32For sources used to compile the sample of registrations of births of children to slave women see the bibliographical essay.
33No owners registered the births of children to slave women in 1827. Slavery legally ended in New York State on July 4, 1827, and very few women remained as slaves during the first six months of 1827 to produce children. By 1820, 89.1 percent of fertile black women aged fourteen to forty‑five years (see app.15) in the southern six counties of New York were free--with even higher proportions free by 1827. Additionally, younger women of childbearing age under the age of twenty‑eight in 1827 were all free (born after July 4, 1799) even though they owed service--their children were free and would not have been registered as children born to slave women under this program.
Number of Births Registered Per Year, 1799‑1826
1799 ‑ 53 1809 ‑ 54 1819 ‑ 16
1800 ‑ 99 1810 ‑ 79 1820 ‑ 18
1801 ‑ 118 1811 ‑ 62 1821 ‑ 14
1802 ‑ 126 1812 ‑ 58 1822 ‑ 11
1803 ‑ 107 1813 ‑ 46 1823 ‑ 6
1804 ‑ 114 1814 ‑ 56 1824 ‑ 3
1805 ‑ 80 1815 ‑ 40 1825 ‑ 2
1806 ‑ 98 1816 ‑ 25 1826 ‑ 2
1807 ‑ 76 1817 ‑ 26 Unknown ‑ 10
1808 ‑ 77 1818 ‑ 23 Total 1,499
34The total number of children born to slave women between 1799 and 1827 can be estimated based on the number of children listed in slave child birth registration books. All black children who were born to slave mothers during these years should have appeared in town books containing owner registrations of births of children to slave women. Some children, however, appeared in private, church, or abandonment roll records but not in birth registers. A small proportion of owners may have never registered the births of children to their slave women with county clerks as required by law. In the town of Bushwick all records matched; birth registrations were available for all children who also appeared on the town's abandonment roll. In several other towns, however, abandoned black children were located on overseer of the poor rolls for whom no birth notification certificate appeared in slave child birth registers. Owners may have either failed to file certificates or else the documents no longer survive as part of the original record collection. Five abandoned children in New York City, three in New Rochelle, four in New Utrecht, three in North Salem, and nine in Northfield appeared on overseer of the poor rolls but had not been registered at birth in New York City, New Rochelle, and New Utrecht records (no birth records were found for North Salem or Northfield). Care of Children of Slaves, Accession no. 267, Box 1, New York State Library, Albany, N.Y.; Book for the Poor of the Town of Northfield, In the year 1804 in Morris, History of Staten Island, 2:40‑41; New York City Birth Certificates of Slaves, microfilm reel 49, NYHS; Jeanne Forbes, transcriber, Records of the Town of New Rochelle, 1699‑1828 (New Rochelle, N.Y.: The Paragraph Press, 1916); New Utrecht Births and Manumissions of Slaves 1800‑1822, St. Francis. These twenty‑four children (plus three in New Utrecht from the Cortelyou papers) were added to the totals for these towns derived from slave child birth registration books. The Cortelyou family in New Utrecht kept a list of children born to their slaves in a set of family papers. Eight children were born between 1800 and 1810, but only five appeared in the town clerk's book of slave births (registered by Daniel Cortelyou). Cortelyou Family--Vital Statistics, Vault Pkg. 137, LIHS; New Utrecht Births and Manumissions of Slaves 1800‑1822, St. Francis. Additional children appeared on overseer of the poor rolls for Southfield (thirty‑three), Newtown (fifty‑eight), and North Hempstead (fifteen) for whom no births had ever been registered. They were not added to the total of children born 1799 to 1827 in the southern six counties of New York since no records of births were available at all for these towns.
35The names of the unknown number of mothers of 627 children were not given and the mothers could not be separated out from other women giving birth in the master's household. Many successive births to the same woman may have been missed due to the inability to identify individual mothers by name. Sarah Miller of Brookhaven reported the births of three children to slave women--on September 15, 1806 (Mary), October 14, 1809 (Charles), and on February 14, 1812 (Armina). In each case the mother was simply listed as "a slave," and may or may not have been the same woman. These three were counted as miscellaneous births, as the mother and her childbirth spacing pattern could not be ascertained. Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1798‑1856, 3 vols. (Port Jefferson, N.Y.: Times Steam Job Print by authority of the town, 1888), vol.2.
36A women was counted as giving birth once if her name appeared on a birth registration certificate for only one child, or if an owner reported one sole birth between 1799 and 1826 in his holding and it was to an unnamed woman.
37It is assumed that this spacing is between the births of surviving children, as data were normally not available on the deaths of the registered children. Children were registered between birth and age nine months, thereby excluding stillbirths. Some of the shortest intervals between births (nine to twelve months) may have indicated the death of the previous child and an end to the natural contraceptive effect of breastfeeding. The spacing (number of months) between the births of children was counted for each individual slave woman. The figures were divided into separate groups for women who gave birth from two to six times each. A median number was taken for the combined number of spacings for all women who gave birth to either two, three, four, five, or six children. As an example, two women gave birth to six children each. With five intervals between births calculated for each woman who delivered six children, a total of ten spacings were collected for this group: 42, 31, 34, 72, 28, 30, 18, 31, 35, and 64 months apart. The median spacing was 32.5 months. For all 142 women, 248 readings (spacings between births) were taken--the median number was twenty‑eight months.
38This type of control in the study was unobtainable from the data on slave child births. Owners who registered births to their slave women rarely mentioned the fathers of the children.
39Darret B. Rutman, Charles Wetherell, and Anita H. Rutman, "Rhythms of Life: Black and White Seasonality in the Early Chesapeake," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 11 (Summer 1980): 31‑33; Richard H. Steckel, "Slave Marriage and the Family," Journal of Family History 5 (Winter 1980): 409‑10.
40Instability of ownership (which meant that it was impossible to trace all of a woman's registered births during her lifetime), unrecorded births, emancipation, and missing records may account for the large proportion of women who gave birth to only one or two known children. Church registers may have failed to list the baptisms of all of a woman's children. The initial date of her membership in church, irregularities in attendance, and changes in ownership, may have meant that not all of a woman's children would be baptized in the same church. Infants who died before they could be either baptized or registered with town clerks were also never counted as part of the total number of births per woman.
41New York Gazette or New York Mercury, 15 February 1773.
42Whites in the New England and middle colonies produced anywhere from five to nine children, not all of whom survived to adulthood. Family size peaks when the head of the household is age forty to forty‑five; his wife has produced all or almost all of their children and is at the end of her childbearing years. The oldest children are still too young to have left the household. In New York in 1698, a sample of completed white families included at least seven persons per household, indicating that five or more surviving children had been born to these couples during their lives. Wells, Population in America Before 1776, pp. 323‑24. The average number of children born to families in Plymouth colony ranged from 7.8 to 9.3, with from 7.2 to 7.9 surviving until adulthood. Demos, A Little Commonwealth, p. 192.
43Klein and Engerman, "Fertility Differentials between Slaves," p. 366, noted that four‑fifths or more of all potential childbearers among United States slave women produced children.
44Greene, Negro in Colonial New England, pp. 216‑17. The New England economy was only able to absorb a limited number of slaves. Beyond this the institution became unprofitable to the average small owner when burdened with the support of excess slaves.
45McManus, Negro Slavery, pp. 45‑46.
46Bushwick Town Records--History, Deeds, Births of Slaves 1660‑1825, pp. 428, 444, 454, 455, 461, 464, 468, 472, 474, 478, 481, St. Francis.
47Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1798‑1856, vol. 2.
48In 1726 Elizabeth Hill wrote to her nephew Cadwallader Colden in New York about her former slave Tamar, now in Colden's possession. Hill was glad that "Tamar has been so long without giving you trouble of that kind." Hill was concerned about the care that Colden's wife would show Tamar, for "she has enough to go thr [ough] to bear it and bring it up and do her other work. She is flesh and blood as well as other Negroes and I was afraid she would have had children before now." Tamar delivered another child in April 1732 which died at six weeks old. She became pregnant five months later and gave birth again in June 1733. Coll. NYHS, Letters and Papers of Cadwallader Colden, 1:193‑94; 8:183. The liabilities of pregnancy and childrearing helped lower the market value of adult slave women relative to slave men in New York. McManus, Negro Slavery, p. 43.
49Bill of Sale, Ruth Ward to John Peter De Lancey, April 14, 1806; Bill of Sale, John Peter De Lancey to Peter Underhill, May 14, 1807, De Lancey Family Papers, MCNY.
50New York Gazette or Weekly Post Boy, 17 May 1756; New York Gazette or Weekly Post Boy, 10 January 1757; New York Gazette or Weekly Post Boy, 4 September 1758; New York Weekly Post Boy, 12 February 1761; New York Weekly Post Boy, 28 November 1765; New York Mercury, 8 February 1768; New York Weekly Post Boy, 7 May 1770. The eight women who were sold were young women in their childbearing years and ranged in age from eighteen to twenty‑nine. Two were offered for sale alone with none of their children, five were being sold with only one child each, and one woman was placed on the market with three of her children. For seven of the eight women no evidence exists to indicate the birth of more than one child each. It is likely that several of them had had more than one child, however, and were being sold away from some or (in two cases) all of their children. Owner criteria for "breeding too fast" is unknown; it varied from household to household.
51New York Gazette or Weekly Post Boy, 2 January 1748/9.
52By the last half of the eighteenth century, the white ratio of children to all women was at least 1.6 in all mainland colonies. The ratio would have been even higher if the sample had compared children to fertile women only. Wells, Population in America Before 1776, pp. 269, 278.
53As a measure of either black or white fertility, the ratio of children to women is a better indicator than is the proportion of children in the population, as it is relatively free of the effects of male adult migration (importation or immigration). A heavy influx of male adults reduces the proportion of the population composed of children, masking real natural reproduction rates.
54Two studies of the slave population in early Maryland indicate that this group also failed to reproduce itself fully with ratios of only 1.2 or 1.5 children under sixteen to fertile women aged sixteen to fifty years in the 1658 to 1720 period. Kulikoff, "Tobacco and Slaves"; Menard, "Maryland Slave Population: A Demographic Profile," p. 43.
55The 1731 and 1737/8 censuses counted only persons under age ten as children, which sharply lowered both the proportion of children in the population and the child to woman ratio in the white population. The fact that these two indices of fertility did not also drop for blacks from their 1723 levels may indicate either census errors or that most black children were under the age of ten with very few between the ages of eleven and sixteen. Even with this young cutoff age, both black and white populations showed a high 31‑32 percent of children. High fertility is indicated in a population where 30 or more percent of the population is under age ten. Farley, Growth of the Black Population, p.21. Where the cutoff point for childhood is at age fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen, a proportion of from 37 to 45 percent of children in the population is indicative of a high reproduction rate. T.H. Hollingsworth, Historical Demography (New York: Cornell University Press, 1969), p. 112; Wood, Black Majority, p. 142.
56Direct comparisons of fertility rates between individual years are difficult because census age cutoff points for childhood varied; censuses use either ten, fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen. For both blacks and whites, child to woman ratios for 1731 and 1737/8 are particularly difficult to use in comparison to other years, as the cutoff point used for childhood is age ten. It artificially reduces the proportion of children in the population and the ratio of children to women. The most accurate guage of fertility measures the ratio of children to fertile women aged 14/15/16 to 45; censuses before 1800 only compare children to all adult women or to women aged 16 to 60 years. Patterns of increase or decrease in fertility rates over time may be due more to these census categories than to real demographic change.
57Demographers have noted general black population decline after 1825. White fertility also decreased in New York after 1820. Rosenwaike, Population History of N.Y.C., p. 44, argued that a high mortality rate accounted for natural decrease among New York City blacks, 1825 to 1860. Using 1825 interment data, Rosenwaike computed a mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 for that year. Marvin Zelnik, "Fertility of the American Negro in 1830 and 1850," Population Studies 20 (1966) :80, noticed a decrease in the nationwide proportion of black children under age ten in successive censuses between 1830 and 1850. He therefore concluded that the black population experienced a decline in fertility during these years due to supposed changes in the age at first cohabitation or at marriage and increasing disruption due to the settlement of new slave territories. While these factors did not affect the New York black population, the disruption of the voluntary manumission and gradual emancipation processes could have had the same dampening effect on the birth rate between 1785 and 1848.
58In a normally distributed population (unaffected by unusual demographic events such as selective importation of women in a particular age group), approximately 78 percent of adult women aged 14/15/16 to 100 are in the fertile 14/15/16 to 45 bracket. In New York's six county population, 1800 to 1830, the proportions of adult women that were fertile were very similar for both blacks and whites. This 78 percent of the adult female population were the childbearers; the other 22 percent of adult women were beyond reproductive age. This broad population model is useful in statistical situations where only the number of adult women in a town or population group is known--this model facilitates estimation of the number of fertile, childbearing women in the group. Assuming that the median spacing between births was twenty‑eight months apart, every year 42.9 percent of the fertile black females in the population gave birth. Since 28 months= 100 percent, then 12 months = 100/1 x 12/28 = 42.9 percent of the women in the fertile group delivering babies in a given year. At the end of twenty‑eight months, 100 percent of the fertile women will have given birth. A discussion of the methodology used to calculate the proportion of fertile females in an adult female population group appears in app. 10 along with a comparison of black and white fertility groups.
59Davis, "New York's Long Black Line," p. 44.
60Donnan, ed., Documents Illustrative of Slave Trade, 3:444.
61These figures are based on the entire population of New York, not the southern six counties (number of imports 2,395/population increase 3,788 = 63.2% of population increase due to imports rather than reproduction).
62Lydon, "New York Slave Trade," estimated 6,800 imports minus 268 slaves known to have been exported.
63This calculation for the sources of the black growth rate between 1700 and 1774 (number of imports 6,532/population increase 17,723 = 36.9%) compares population with known import levels.
64This was calculated on the basis of the total of the eight percentages which represented average annual rates of increase in table 3, p. (19.1%/8 = 2.4% average annual rate of increase).
65Farley, Growth of the Black Population, p. 22, states that at a rate of 2.5 percent per year, a population will double every thirty years. Wells, Population in America Before 1776, p. 262, states that with an annual rate of increase in the 2 to 3.5 percent range, a population will double every twenty‑five years.
66Wells, Population in America Before 1776, pp. 112‑13, suggests that some of these early swings in growth rates (average annual growth rates of 0.8 percent from 1698 to 1703, 6.2 percent from 1703 to 1723, and 0.9 percent from 1723 to 1731) reflect census errors rather than real trends. Some problems of undercounting or incompleteness in the 1698, 1703, and 1712‑1714 censuses could explain the uneven growth rates. The 1723 census may have been more complete than earlier counts. Wells's cautions about census errors may account for the phenomenal early growth. This pattern, alternately, could reflect black generational reproduction patterns--the maturing of an Afro‑American generation with higher childbirth rates. Heavy importation in this period may also have been responsible for the 1698 to 1723 growth spurt.
67If 36.9% (.369) of the growth from 1698 to 1771 was due to imports, then 63.1% (.631) of the annual growth rate of 2.4% = 1.5% annual growth rate corrected to exclude imports.
68While the black population in the southern six counties of New York increased twelve‑fold between 1698 and 1830 (1,972 to 23,766), the white population increased twenty‑two fold during the same period (13,019 to 286,604). In Population in America Before 1776, pp. 111‑12, Wells found an average annual black New York colony growth rate of 2.8 percent between 1698 and 1771 compared to 3 percent for whites (based on averages for the percentages in his table IV‑1). While these figures indicate that the white population in New York expanded more rapidly than the black population, since they include population additions from both slave importation and white immigration they cannot be used to directly compare white and black rates of natural reproduction. Information on white immigration would be needed to reduce figures on the average annual white growth rate and the increase in overall white population size to reflect only natural reproduction.
69Farley, Growth of the Black Population, p. 2.
70In a very few cases the names of fathers were included with the registrations of the births of children to slave women. When Samuel Bayard of New Rochelle registered the birth of Henry to his slave Katy he added that he was the "son of a black man in New York (as I am informed, named Frank)." Samuel Bayard, Registration of Slave Child Henry, b. August 1804, Tom Paine Memorial House, New Rochelle, N.Y. Ward Hunt reported that Caroline was the daughter of his slave Phillis and of William Woodward, a free man. Ward Hunt, Registration of Slave Child Caroline, b. August 9, 1800, Register of manumissions of slaves. . . , p. 124, MCNY. Julian Ludlow, a New York City merchant, noted that a negro child Mary was the daughter of his slave Mary and of Samuel Sperry, a free black. Julian Ludlow, Registration of Slave Child Mary, b. April 1802, New York City Birth Certificates of Slaves, p.3, microfilm reel 49, NYHS. Christiana Marschalk listed the parents of Eleanor as her slave Margaret and "Margaret's husband Pompey." Christiana Marschalk, Registration of Slave Child Eleanor, b. April 9, 1807, New York City Birth Certificates of Slaves, p.18, microfilm reel 49, NYHS. Jane Voorhees of Flatbush noted the names of both parents (Jack and Mary) at the registration of Isabel's birth. Jane Voorhees, Registration of Slave Child Isabel, b. September 8, 1812, Flatbush Slave Records 1799‑1819: Births and Manumissions of Slaves 1799‑1819, vol. 107, p. 273, St. Francis. Vincent Bodine of Castleton certified in 1821 that Joe's parents were Bodine's slave woman and Jack, a slave of Peter Prall. In 1812 Edward Beatty of Castleton registered the birth of a son to his slave woman Ann; the father was Thomas, owned by Captain Cambell. In 1815 Beatty registered the birth of another son to Ann; the father was again Thomas (deceased) who had changed owners since 1812 and had been the property of Joseph Barlin. In 1822 Beatty registered the birth of a daughter to Ann; the father was another separately owned slave, Jack, who belonged to Peter Jacobson. Town Book for Castletown for the entry of Black Children born of Slaves after July 1, 1799, pp. 29, 22, 23, 30, microfilm reel 49, NYHS.
71Joshua E. Birch, Registration of Slave Child Ann Maria Stevenson, b. February 19, 1803, New York City Birth Certificates of Slaves, p.12, microfilm reel 49, NYHS.
72Ladd, Origin of Grace (Episcopal) Church, Jamaica, p. 329.
73Abraham E. Brower v. Charles Miller, Package 327, LIHS.
74Bernard, Journey Toward Freedom, pp. 8‑14, 22‑24, 38‑39; Gilbert, narrator, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, pp. 15‑18, 20, 27‑28.
75Runaway Slave Ad, Loudon's New York Packet, 4 July 1785.
76Samuel Thompson, Runaway Slave Ad, May 20, 1796, in Onderdonk, "Suffolk County in Olden Times," Journal of Long Island History, 6, no. 2 (1966): 27.
77Runaway Slave Ad, Long Island Star, 28 June 1810. Contact was maintained between Martha and her father over the distance of six miles that separated them.
78See pp. ‑ above on the successful efforts of three black fathers, John Moranda, Joseph Way, and Isaac Menix to free and reunite their scattered families.
79Robert Shedden also held a woman named Judy Byas in slavery, whom he had freed in 1783. She may have been either a mother or sister to David Byass--one of his children was named after her. Robert Shedden, Manumission of Judy Byas, March 25, 1786; Robert Shedden, Manumission of David Byass, January 23, 1792, Register of manumissions of slaves. . . , pp. 36‑37, MCNY.
80Alexander McComb, Manumission of Charles, January 10, 1792; Alexander McComb, Manumission of Suzette and Judy, January 12, 1794, Register of manumissions of slaves. . . , pp. 35‑36, MCNY.
81Theodorus Van Wyck, Manumission of Betty and infant, February 9, 1801; Theodorus Van Wyck, Manumission Agreement concerning Joseph, April 1, 1802, Register of manumissions of slaves. . . , pp. 188, 189‑90, MCNY.
82Only two cases were located among baptismal, manumission, and child birth registration documents in which owners are known to have chosen the names of children born to slaves. Gysbert Bogart registered the birth of a son to his slave Dinah on May 20, 1805, adding that he was "named Hector by me." Dinah had named an earlier daughter born in 1800 after herself. Gysbert Bogart, Registration of Slave Child Hector, b. May 20, 1805; Gysbert Bogart, Registration of Slave Child Dinah, b. November 7, 1800, Bushwick Town Records--History, Deeds, Births of Slaves 1660‑1825, pp. 430, 451, St. Francis. Stephen Hubbard registered the birth of a child to his slave Mary on March 2, 1800, adding that: "I name him Benn." Gravesend--Births of Slaves 1799‑1819, p. 4, St. Francis.
83The overall sample contained 512 child baptisms, but for 45.3 percent of the children data was unavailable on the names of both parents, reducing the usable sample for an analysis of first names to 252 children.
84Gutman, Black Family, pp. 188‑90.
85In a sample of 168 children manumitted from 1700 to 1831 in the southern six counties of New York between the ages of birth and nineteen years, nineteen daughters were named for mothers, six sons and one daughter were given their fathers' names, seven children were named for dead siblings, and three were named after their owners. Manumission documents usually did not include the names of both parents, preventing systematic analysis of naming patterns. Documents which registered the births of slave children generally, but not always, included the mother's name; fathers were mentioned only rarely. Out of a sample of 1,499 slave children born between 1799 and 1826, fifteen were named for their mothers, two for their fathers, seven after a dead sibling, and three were named for their owners. The origin of the other 1,472 names is unknown due to lack of information on fathers, mothers, and other blood relatives.
86Gutman, Black Family, noted the slave practice of necronymic naming, which was very common among New York blacks.
87Will of Henry Cole, Richmond County, June 19, 1837, Wills of Richmond County, 1787‑1863, on file at the Surrogate's Office, St. George, Staten Island, SIIAS.
88Mrs. George Wilson Smith, contributor, "Upper‑Aquebogue, L.I., Cemetery Registry," NYGBR 38 (1907): 305‑10. There were 109 members of the white Youngs family who died between 1752 and 1899 buried here along with their slaves’ families.
89Will of Abraham Willitt, Flushing, September 21, 1756, New York County Wills 1749‑1760, microfilm reel 20, pp. 203‑4, NYGBS; Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 5:157.
90Records of the First Methodist Episcopal (Sands Street) Church of Brooklyn, NYGBS.
91"Baptisms in the Lutheran Church, N.Y.C.," NYGBR 100 (1969): 66. Abraham Matthys, a free negro at Hakkinsack and Jora Van Ginnee, born at Boswyck, were married on August 3, 1729, at the Trinity Lutheran Church. "Some Early Records of the Lutheran Church, New York," Holland Society Year Book (1903): 4‑37. The manuscript records of this church are at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.
92Rev. James McGean, "Earliest Baptismal Register of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, N.Y.C.," U.S. Catholic Historical Society, Historical Records and Studies 1‑3 (1899‑1904).
93See n. , p. below on the naming patterns in the black Ryerss family.
94Bontemps, ed., Five Black Lives.
95Oyster Bay Town Records, 8 vols. (New York: Tobias A. Wright, Printer, by order of the town, 1916‑1940), 8:325‑34
96See pp. ‑ above on African names in New York records. The proportion of the black population in New York that bore African names at any given time undoubtedly changed according to the level of African slave importation. Future research on the proportion of African out of all black names listed in censuses from 1698 through 1820 and in other types of documents could show a correlation between the incidence of African names and peak or recent periods of African importation.
97See the names of baptized children and their parents in Collections of New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Reformed Dutch Church, N.Y., Baptisms 1639‑1800.
98Murray Heller, ed., Black Names in America: Origins and Usage, Collected by Newbell Niles Puckett (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co. for the Cleveland Public Library, 1975), pp. 16‑17.
99Joey Lee Dillard, Black Names (The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton & Co., 1976), passim; Joey Lee Dillard, Black English--Its History and Usage in the U.S. (New York: Random House, 1972), p. 124.
100See Heller, ed., Black Names in America, pp. 11‑18, on types of black names. Most of the names listed in Heller were also common among New York blacks.
101John Hepburn, "The American Defense of the Christian Golden Rule, or an Essay to prove the Unlawfulness of making Slaves of Men ," in Henry J. Cadbury, "John Hepburn and His Book Against Slavery, 1715," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 59 (1949): 122.
102Gutman, Black Family, pp. 230‑34, noted that many southern slaves had surnames both unknown to and different from those of their owners. These names were not used by antebellum whites in court records and plantation lists, just as northern white owners failed to record slave last names in church records, bills of sale, runaway ads, and manumission documents.
103See pp. ‑ above on last names in church marriage records.
104See p. below on the appearance of black surnames in census records.
105Gutman, Black Family, pp. 230‑40.
106See John V. L. Pruyn, "Pruyn Family--American Branch," NYGBR 21 (1890): 13‑14 on the use of the last name Ebo (derived from Ibo peoples of West Africa) by former Pruyn family slaves.
107Jim Haskins, James Van Der Zee: The Picture‑Takin' Man (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1979), pp. 14, 20‑21. Van Der Zee's paternal ancestors came from New Baltimore, Green County, N.Y.
108Morris, History of Staten Island, 2:47‑48; Board of Education, "The Black Man on Staten Island," The Black Man in American History, pp. 84‑85, SIIAS. See pp. , below on Benjamin.
109Daniel Proudfit, Registration of Slave Child Eliza Vanhorne, b. March 11, 1804, New York City Birth Certificates of Slaves, p. 43, microfilm reel 49, NYHS; Peter Stryker, Registration of Slave Child Michael Pappan, b. November 21, 1819, Flatbush Slave Records 1799‑1819: Births and Manumissions of Slaves 1799‑1819, vol. 107, p. 303, St. Francis.
110"An Act to enable certain persons to take and hold estates within this state," February 17, 1809, Laws of New York State, 32nd Session, Chap. 44 (November 1808‑1809), pp. 29‑30.