HOMEWARD BOUND: THE NEWLY EMERGING FREE BLACKFAMILY, 1785 TO 1848
One great reason that is given by some for not freeing us, I understand, is that we should not know how to take care of ourselves and should take to bad courses; that we should be lazy and idle, and get drunk and steal. Now all those of you who follow any bad courses, and who do not take care to get an honest living by your labour and industry, are doing more to prevent our being free than any body else.
Jupiter Hammon (1787)
Voluntary manumission and gradual emancipation steadily turned slaves into free men between 1785 and 1848. The long legacy of enslavement, bound service, and family separation, however, was only slowly erased during the long transition from slavery to true independence. The remnants of the slave system continued to affect the lives of the first generation of free people who occasionally looked backward to their masters for help while they struggled to achieve autonomy. Economic discrimination, a restricted supply of housing and employment opportunities, and insecurity led large numbers of blacks to live as dependent resident workers in white households after liberation. Full freedom--including economic self‑sufficiency and familial integrity--was initially as hard to achieve as had been freedom itself.
The black population in New York lived in four types of residential arrangements during the long transition from slavery to freedom, 1785 to 1827. Blacks lived in either white households which contained only slaves, white households which contained both slaves and free blacks, white households which contained only free blacks, or free black‑headed households.1 After slavery ended in 1827 free black adults lived in either their own households or in the homes of white employers. Black children who had been born between 1799 and 1827 and who still owed service between 1827 and 1848 lived in white households either alone, with other bound children, or with free black employees on the premises.
Between 1785 and 1827 the black population passed from slavery to freedom through the voluntary manumission and gradual emancipation processes. During this period the retention of old master/slave interpersonal relations probably remained the norm for free blacks who lived and worked in white households. Free blacks who lived in white households were often former slaves freed by these same owners who then continued to live and work on the property (perhaps related to some of the slaves still there). Many may have been freshly hired labor freed by other owners. Free blacks who lived in white households which also owned slaves were in the least autonomous position; they were in an environment where other blacks were still enslaved with the likelihood of shared low status and treatment. Slavery was a less closed institution for these slaves who lived in white homes where manumitted blacks were also present--the possibility of attaining freedom was immediately apparent. Free blacks who lived in white households which contained only other free blacks may have had more independence and better working and pay conditions than in homes where other blacks on the premises were still slaves.
Residence in black‑headed households equalled full self‑determination for manumitted slaves; they were able to live freely with family members and exert control over personal circumstances. It meant independence from white social domination. Black families could have lived together in white households which contained only free black employees, but the labor requirements of employers generally precluded the hiring and quartering of an entire black family. Black families also could have lived together in white homes which included both slaves and freed blacks, subject again to the shifting economic needs of white property owners. Whenever blacks (whether slave or free) lived as dependents in white domiciles their family relations remained insecure and subject to external control.
As table 1 shows, in 1790 85.2 percent of the black population in the southern six counties of New York lived in a white household, 74.6 percent in 1800, 60.4 percent in 1810, and 49.4 percent as late as 1820 even though 85 percent of blacks were already free by 1820. The rapid progress of voluntary manumission caused a dramatic drop between 1790 and 1820 (from 63.1 to 11.4 percent) in the proportion of blacks who lived in white households which contained only slaves. The proportion of blacks who lived in white households which included both slaves and free blacks rose from 1790 to 1810 as slaveowners increasingly complemented their slaveholdings with free black labor; the proportion declined sharply by 1820 as the absolute number of slaves left in the area dwindled. The proportion of the black population that lived in either white households which contained only free blacks or in free black‑headed households rose steadily from 1790 to 1820 as the free black population grew.
The residential, employment, familial, and social intermingling of the slave and free black populations which persisted during the 1785 to 1827 period indicated that the boundary between slavery and freedom had become blurred and permeable in either direction. Some slaves even managed to establish and maintain their own independent households. Twenty‑four slaves lived in six slave‑headed households in 1800, four slaves in three households in 1810, and one slave
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS OF BLACKS WHO LIVED IN FOUR HOUSEHOLD TYPES, SOUTHERN SIX COUNTIES OF NEW YORK COMBINED, 1790 TO 1820
Types of Households
Number and Percent
Distribution of Blacks
in Household Types
Number 8,198 1,833 1,046 1,924a
Percent 63.1 14.1 8.0 14.8
Number 6,705 3,090 1,730 3,923b
Percent 43.4 20.0 11.2 25.4
Number 3,101 4,320 3,923 7,427c
Percent 16.5 23.0 20.9 39.6
Number 2,200 1,555 5,794 9,768d
Percent 11.4 8.0 30.0 50.6
SOURCES: A household by household analysis was done of every domicile which contained either free blacks or slaves in the southern six counties of New York to determine the living circumstances of the black population in 1790, 1800, 1810, and 1820. Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790; 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population
NOTES: The microfilm copy of the 1820 federal census population schedules is extremely poor. In order to make the thirty‑two vertical census columns distinguishable from each other, the microfilm was projected on a lined form which was constructed to match the width and organization of the census columns as they appeared in the initial census banner for each county. This methodology was used in all work with the 1820 census. Detailed figures for each county are contained in appendix 18. Slaves who were owned by free blacks are included as part of the total number of blacks who lived in free black‑headed households (four slaves in 1790, ten slaves in 1800, nine in 1810, and twenty‑one in 1820). A small group of slaves appeared to live independently in their own slave‑headed households and were excluded from this table (twenty‑four slaves in 1800, four in 1810, and one in 1820).
aThe 1790 figures exclude nine free blacks and ten slaves in institutions in the North Ward of New York City listed on the census lines of Samuel Dodge, William Sloane, and Jameson Cox.
bThe 1800 figures exclude 128 blacks (97 free and 31 slave) in institutions in New York's Sixth and Seventh Wards. Ten free blacks and three slaves were in the hospital in the Sixth Ward, twenty‑six free blacks and seventeen slaves were in the Bridewell in the Sixth Ward, twenty‑six free blacks were in the Poor House in the Sixth Ward, and thirty‑five free blacks and eleven slaves were in the State Prison in the Seventh Ward.
cThese figures exclude 416 blacks: 7 free blacks in the Old Powderhouse (Ward 9, p. 235a), 17 free blacks in Belvue Hospital, 81 free blacks and 10 slaves in state prison, 204 free blacks in the county prison, 1 free black and 3 slaves in the Bridewell, 45 free blacks in the Almshouse, 14 free blacks and 5 slaves (the slaves were held by four white and one free black family) in debtor's prison, 1 free black and 2 slaves in an army regiment under Capt. Irvin (Ward 1, p. 10a), and 26 free blacks in the Hospital, all in New York City.
dThese figures exclude 20 free blacks in the Brooklyn Navyyard (p. 170), 4 free blacks in the Brooklyn Poorhouse, 342 indentured free blacks in Suffolk County, and 451 blacks in New York City institutions: 76 free blacks in Belview Hospital, 117 free blacks in the State Prison, 131 free blacks in the Penitentiary, 97 free blacks in the Alms House, and 30 free blacks in New York Hospital. In addition, two free blacks and one slave who lived in households which were not individually enumerated in the census on Governor's, Bedlow's, and Ellis's islands and at the Battery were also omitted from these figures.
lived alone in 1820.2 Both whites and freed slaves were unclear about black legal status; some freedmen permitted themselves to be returned to slavery. An 1817 deposition which concerned a black man Stepney indicated that he had been born free but had been wrongfully sold as a slave during childhood. The inhabitants of the town of Brooklyn certified that Stepney had subsequently lived as a free man in that town for several years.3 An 1826 court case revealed that a man named Ackeston had been "born of black parents, who kept house and acted for themselves as long ago as 1798, in which year he was born. The parents had before been slaves to one Dings." Ackeston, although a freeman, "supposed himself to have been a slave" and was sold for $200 in 1819 to serve until age twenty‑eight. The court denied Ackeston the right to compensation for his labor while in his owner's service.4
Black families were deeply affected by the tortuous transition from slavery to freedom between 1785 and 1827. It was common for members of the same family to have different legal statuses, owners, and places of residence--all of which were subject to episodic change. Isabella Moore, born in 1778, was the first of her family to be freed; she spent her initial wages to purchase the freedom of her father Cade Moore.5 William Woodward, a free black man, and Phillis, a slave of Ward Hunt, were the parents of Caroline, born on August 9, 1800. In this family the father was free, the wife was enslaved, and their child was born free with a service obligation until age twenty‑five.6 Free black Samuel Sperry fathered a child with Julian Ludlow's slave woman Mary; their daughter Mary, born in April 1802, was abandoned at age one by Ludlow.7 This free black father was unable to prevent the abandonment of his child to overseers of the poor who would eventually bind her out to service until age eighteen.
Many new marriages between slaves and free blacks took place from 1785 to 1827; these couples could expect continued separate residence. Church records of the unions of forty‑one slave/free couples married between 1771 and 1827 give an indication in only one case of specific future domestic circumstances of the couple.8 On May 14, 1820, Thomas Johnston, a slave who belonged to John Fountain, married Sally Peterson, a free black woman who resided with Mr. Dubois.9 It is probable that this couple would continue to live apart. After her marriage Sally would most likely keep her position in Mr. Dubois's white household while her husband Thomas would continue as Fountain's slave. Both partners were within walking distance of each other on Staten Island and should have been able to maintain regular contact. Cohabitation could only have been achieved if either Sally's employer purchased Thomas from his owner or if Sally moved into Thomas's quarters (if his master, space, and her job duties to Dubois permitted). All slave/free married couples faced similar circumstances whenever the free partner was employed otherwise than as a resident laborer in the home of his spouse's owner. Sally and Thomas may have had to wait until slavery ended in the state on July 4, 1827 to live together under one roof.10
Many marriages which initially involved two slave spouses evolved into unions between slaves and free blacks as either commonly or separately owned couples were freed by masters at different times. In 1794 Livingston Brockholst of New York promised his slave Sally, "who [was] married to Lightern Allen," that he would free her in three years' time. On May 6, 1796 owner George Mantl freed thirty‑five‑year old Suke, the wife of Cuffee Connor. John H. Kip manumitted his forty‑year‑old African woman Phillis Brown on March 23, 1797; Kip noted that "she is now the wife of Brazil Brown, a free mulatto man of New York City, marriner."11
Apart from endeavoring to purchase the freedom of their enslaved families, free spouses could do little to protect their mates and children. Free husbands were not able to provide either a legal status or domicile for their slave wives; children born to their slave wives followed the legal condition of their mothers before 1799 and from 1799 to 1827 were born free but were bound to service until adulthood. Slave husbands had no legal rights over free wives and children. This legacy of chaos produced by voluntary manumission and gradual emancipation lasted beyond 1827. With many black children held in bound service between 1827 and 1848, the black family still remained partially powerless over its members and divided for twenty‑one years after slavery ended in New York.
* * * * *
Free blacks from 1785 to 1827 lived in either white households that held both slaves and free blacks, in white households which contained only resident free black workers, or in free black‑headed households. As table 2 shows, there were great variations among the southern six counties of New York in the living circumstances of freed blacks. Free blacks in conservative, heavily slaveholding Dutch‑dominated Kings and Richmond counties remained in white households which contained both slaves and free blacks to a far greater extent than did free blacks in other counties. Not until 1820 did free blacks in Kings and Richmond live in free black‑headed households in similar proportions to free blacks in the other four counties.12 Slaveholders in Kings and Richmond were reluctant to phase out the institution of slavery and preferred to retain as many of their slaves as long as possible in addition to hiring freed workers. Free blacks in these areas so frequently lived with other slaves in white households because most of their work opportunities were provided by whites who were accustomed to using
RESIDENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF FREE BLACKS,
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS, 1790 TO 1820
Number of Number in White Number in White Number in Percent in Percent in Percent in
County Free Blacks Households Which Households Which Free Black‑ White White Free Black‑
Contained Both Contained Only Headed Households Households Headed
Slaves and Free Free Blacks Households Which Which Households
Blacks Contained Contained
Both Slaves Only Free
and Free Blacks
Kings 47 23 17 7 48.9 36.2 14.9
New York 1,093a 129 238 726 11.8 21.8 66.4
Richmond 127 61 51 15 48.1 40.2 11.8
Suffolk 1,125 303 631 191 26.9 56.1 17.0
Queens 813 0 1 812 0. .1 99.9
Westchester 359 82 108 169 22.8 30.1 47.1
Total 3,564 598 1,046 1,920 16.8 29.3 53.9
Kings 331 244 87 0 73.7 26.3 0.0
New York 3,409b 399 879 2,131 11.7 25.8 62.5
Richmond 83 56 16 11 67.5 19.3 13.3
Suffolk 1,017 141 231 645 13.9 22.7 63.4
Queens 1,419 159 366 894 11.2 25.8 63.0
Westchester 499 116 151 232 23.2 30.3 46.5
Total 6,758 1,115 1,730 3,913 16.5 25.6 57.9
Kings 735 418 141 176 56.9 19.2 23.9
New York 7,741c 512 2,301 4,928 6.6 29.7 63.7
Richmond 274 211 32 31 77.0 11.7 11.3
Suffolk 1,373 265 375 733 19.3 27.3 53.4
Queens 2,340 472 762 1,106 20.2 32.6 47.3
Westchester 914 158 312 444d 17.3 34.1 48.6
Total 13,377 2,036 3,923 7,418 15.2 29.3 55.4
Kings 858e 123 257 478 14.3 30.0 55.7
New York 9,915f 169 3,665 6,081 1.7 37.0 61.3
Richmond 78 19 16 43 24.4 20.5 55.1
Suffolk 1,166g 12 125 1,029 1.0 10.7 88.3
Queens 2,648 233 1,021 1,394 8.8 38.6 52.6
Westchester 1,638 206 710 722 12.6 43.3 44.1
Total 16,303 762 5,794 9,747 4.7 35.5 59.8
SOURCES: The distribution of the free black population was analyzed household by household in the following censuses: Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790; 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR; 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules.
NOTE: This table describes the living circumstances of the free black population and therefore excludes slaves who lived in free black‑headed households.
aThis figure excludes nine free blacks in institutions in the North Ward of New York City.
bThe ninety‑seven free blacks who were in institutions in New York City's Sixth and Seventh Wards are omitted.
cThis figure excludes 396 free blacks who lived in institutions and military regiments in New York City.
dThe town of North Castle in Westchester County had seven free black‑headed households. There may have been another uncounted free black household headed by Prince Cornel, next to whose name no family members at all were listed in the white, free black, or slave census columns. Although his household was not included here, he did appear in later censuses as a free black head of household.
eAn additional twenty‑four omitted free blacks were in the Brooklyn Navyard and the Poorhouse in Brooklyn.
fThis figure excludes 76 free blacks in Belview Hospital, 117 free blacks in the State Prison, 131 free blacks in the Penitentiary, 97 free blacks in the Alms House, 30 free blacks in New York Hospital, and 2 free blacks who were included with a group of households on Governor's Island, Bedlow's Island, Ellis's Island, and the Battery which were not enumerated on an individual basis in the 1820 census (see p. vi. introduction to census microfilm reel and p. 37a).
gThis total of 1,166 free blacks in Suffolk County does not include 342 free black indentured servants who lived in white households and appeared in a census column entitled " Indentured Blacks all other persons except Indians not taxed."
resident black labor. Free blacks may have also remained with or sought work near their old masters because many of their family members were still held there as slaves.
Almost two‑thirds of New York City free blacks lived in free black‑headed households between 1790 and 1820; the second largest group lived in white households which contained only free blacks. The rapid spread of freedom in this county after 1785 and the fact that New York City slaveowners lived in small quarters and had labor requirements too modest to house and employ both slaves and free blacks meant that free blacks would only rarely live in white households which also contained slaves. New York's free blacks were able to establish independent households more readily than blacks in other counties due to the greater availability of nonresidential commercial employment and the larger stock of marginal housing which was open to them in the city. The distribution pattern of free blacks into the three household types over time was more uneven in Queens,13 Suffolk and Westchester counties.
Free blacks who lived in white households which contained both slaves and free blacks worked for employers whose labor needs were great enough to require the help of an average of 4.3 blacks per household from 1790 through 1810 and 3.8 blacks in 1820. Slaveowners who employed free blacks were larger‑than‑average masters who supplemented their dwindling slaveholdings with free black workers as they manumitted their bondsmen. Only small numbers of free blacks were employed in individual slaveholding households (an average of 1.4 free blacks in 1790, 1.5 in 1800, 2.0 in 1810, and 1.8 in 1820 in the southern six counties of New York combined).14
In the southern six counties of the state as a whole, although the number of free blacks who lived in white slaveholding households nearly quadroupled between 1790 and 1810 simply due to the large increase in the employable free black population who sought work in white households, the proportion of free blacks who lived in such households remained fairly constant at around 16 percent. The number of free blacks who lived in slaveholdings fell by 1820 as fewer slaveowners remained to employ such free workers. The proportion of free blacks who lived in white households which contained both slave and free laborers had also dropped sharply by 1820 since not only had the number of slaveowners who could employ them declined, but a smaller proportion of the now remaining slaveholders chose to supplement their workforce with free black labor.15
The number of free blacks who lived in white households which contained only free blacks as laborers increased steadily from 1790 to 1820 as blacks were freed and sought employment in the white community. The proportion of free blacks in this type of household remained similar from 1790 through 1810 but rose in 1820 as the proportion of free blacks in white households which also held slaves declined. After slavery ended in 1827 free blacks lived and worked in white households where all blacks (other than bound children) were free. As table 3 shows, whites who employed only free black resident labor used fewer workers than did either slaveowners or whites who used both slaves and free blacks. This indicates that without the economic advantage of slave ownership, whites were unable to maintain free black employees in comparable numbers to their former slaves. The average number of resident workers per household which employed only free labor was 1.3 free blacks in 1790, 1.4 in 1800, 1.6 in 1810, and 1.8 in 1820.16 Nonresidential free black or white workers could have provided any additional required labor on a sporadic or daily wage basis. This trend had major consequences for free blacks; with fewer residential places open to them than under slavery, they faced a shrinkage of their old supply of jobs and housing.
In addition to residence in white households which contained both slaves and free blacks or white households which employed only free blacks, some free blacks in Suffolk County lived as indentured servants in white households in 1820. Listed under a census column entitled "Indentured Blacks all other persons except Indians not taxed," 342 free blacks lived in 232 white households (average 1.5 per household).17 These blacks lived in white households either alone or where other free blacks or slaves were also resident. The two largest holdings of indentured blacks were on the properties of William Smith (eight indentured
A COMPARISON OF THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF RESIDENT BLACKS IN
WHITE HOUSEHOLDS WHICH HELD ONLY SLAVE LABOR, WHITE
HOUSEHOLDS WHICH CONTAINED BOTH SLAVES AND FREE BLACK LABOR, AND HOUSEHOLDS WHICH EMPLOYED ONLY FREE
Kings 4.6 6.3 11 17 1.5
New York 2.1 4.0 167 238 1.4
Richmond 3.1 4.6 45 51 1.1
Suffolk 2.1 4.1 483 631 1.3
Queens 3.0 ... 1 1 1.0
Westchester 2.5 4.5 77 108 1.4
Total 2.7 4.3 784 1,046 1.3
Kings 3.8 5.7 60 87 1.4
New York 1.9 3.2 657 879 1.3
Richmond 2.7 5.2 15 16 1.1
Suffolk 2.0 4.7 183 231 1.3
Queens 2.9 4.3 220 366 1.7
Westchester 2.5 4.3 114 151 1.3
Total 2.4 4.3 1,249 1,730 1.4
Kings 2.7 5.7 87 141 1.6
New York 1.5 3.1 1,419 2,301 1.6
Richmond 1.8 4.5 28 32 1.1
Suffolk 1.4 4.4 262 375 1.4
Queens 1.9 4.6 415 762 1.8
Westchester 2.3 3.9 189 312 1.6
Total 1.9 4.3 2,400 3,923 1.6
Kings 3.2 4.5 151 257 1.7
New York 1.3 2.9 1,977 3,665 1.8
Richmond 2.9 4.9 6 16 2.7
Suffolk 2.2 3.0 72 125 1.7
Queens 2.2 3.8 532 1,021 1.9
Westchester 1.2 4.1 418 710 1.7
Total 2.3 3.8 3,156 5,794 1.8
SOURCES: The numbers of free blacks in each white household which contained only free (and no slave) workers were counted as they appeared in the 1790, 1800, 1810, and 1820 federal censuses. Bureau of Census, Heads ofFamilies, 1790; 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR; 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census Manuscript Population Schedules.
NOTE: See tables 8, 9, and 10, chap. 4, for figures from which the average number of slaves held per white household which contained only slaves (and no free labor) was compiled and on the average number of blacks per white household which contained both slaves and free blacks.
blacks) and Nicoll Floyd (eight indentured blacks and four free blacks) both in the town of Brookhaven.18
Anecdotal evidence supports census indications that large proportions of the free black population initially lived in white households after manumission. One historian noted that in 1827 in Rye, New York "Irish and German emigration had not yet commenced; and scarcely any other than colored 'help' were employed in the kitchen or the field. . . . Every family of means had some humble retainers, once their bond‑servants, and still their dependents."19 On Staten Island "scarcely an emancipated slave [in 1827] sought a new home, but returned to their masters to serve them no longer as bondmen, but as freemen. Many of them remained throughout the years that followed in the old homes. . . ."20
When freed slaves either remained in their old owners' homes as paid workers or sought positions as resident workers with new employers it is likely that they lived in the same type of housing that had formerly been reserved for slaves. Free blacks who lived in white households were quartered in the garret, cellar, in a room near the kitchen, or in small outhouses. Such housing was too small to accommodate and include other free black family members. Lack of room and privacy in their employers' dwellings meant that relatives would continue to live with their respective employers in separate domiciles, as they had during slavery.
Sojourner Truth's aged parents continued to live in the dark, humid cellar of their ex‑master's house after they were freed--with his permission. Sojourner, herself, was freed on July 4, 1827 by the laws of New York State; her owner, Isaac Van Wagenen, marked the occasion by a private ceremony, a reading from the Bible, and a gift to Sojourner of the service time owed by her infant daughter Sophie, rendering her completely free. Sojourner remained in the household; the next day she continued to cook, clean and wash as usual, but for a tiny wage.
Her former slaveowner, John Dumont, held her three other daughters in service until adulthood. Unable to care for Sophie while she worked and successfully brought a court action to free her son Peter who had been illegally exported out of the state, Sojourner placed Sophie in the Dumont household under the care of their older sisters--to which long‑term arrangement Dumont consented. Once freed, Peter was boarded with a white man for whom he worked. In her position as a live‑in domestic worker, Sojourner was unable to make a home for either her two free children or her three bound children even if she had been able to acquire custody over all them. She continued to live apart from her husband Tom, who had also been freed in 1827 and was ordered to leave the Dumont premises. He survived on odd jobs for a few years and eventually died in the poorhouse. Freedom did not bring this family together under one roof.21
For the large proportion of free blacks who lived in white households freedom often had not brought about the reunion of enslaved families. With housing space severely restricted in most white households, married partners may have commonly lived down the road or at some distance from each other as dependent servants in separate white households. Newly married free black couples may or may not have entered marriage with the anticipation of an immediate common residence. There were eight marriages of free black partners in the United Brethren Congregation of Staten Island between 1820 and 1829. No residential information was listed for three of the couples. In one union a commitment to a shared future residence together was indicated by the fact that both partners left their respective former positions: Joseph Bedillion was "formerly of N. Jersey" while his wife Eliza Peterson was "formerly at G. W. Barnes." In three of the marriage records one spouse lived with a named white employer while no information was provided on the residence of the other mate. Thomas Disosway and Diana Clarkson, married on July 16, 1825, were more fortunate. Both lived with and worked for Harmanus Guion; although not in their own home, these spouses were at least able to live together (subject to the changing financial fortunes and labor requirements of the Guion household).22
Under slavery it was common for married partners and for parents and children to live apart--this type of family expectation may have survived among the first generation of freed blacks who were often unable to maintain their own households. It is unknown what proportion of free blacks who lived in white households had immediate family members resident with them on the premises.23 There were undoubtedly attempts by free blacks to rearrange their positions and to induce whites to employ spouses and children rather than unrelated male and female servants. The distribution of the free black workforce, however, was organized according to the limited labor requirements and economic considerations of white employers rather than in accordance with the family needs of the free black population.
The effects of unbalanced sex ratios (particularly in New York and Richmond counties) on the ability of blacks to find and live with mates were often exacerbated by employer demands for the labor of only one sex. Chances for family groups to live together in white households were sharply reduced in New York City where the demand for female domestics was high (evidenced by a sex ratio in 1820 of only 61.4 males per 100 women among black adults over the age of fourteen). In Richmond County a large excess of black males in the local population (166.2 males per 100 women among adults over the age of fourteen in 1820) resulted from almost exclusive use by whites of male laborers (most of whom were still slaves and would not be freed until 1827).24
Faced with limited economic opportunities, free blacks accepted work in white households which offered shelter and employment to individual workers rather than to entire families. New York slavery was traditionally characterized by very small slaveholdings and widespread acceptance among owners (and resignation among slaves) that black family members would be divided into a number of different white households. Both whites and blacks emerged from slavery with the precedent that black families were separable. A post‑slavery system developed in which free blacks lived in white households under circumstances which simulated the domestic arrangements instituted under slavery; they lived in white households as domestics or farmhands with one or two other unrelated blacks.
The large sector of free blacks that remained in white households stayed there for a variety of reasons. It is possible that many newly freed blacks initially weathered the transition from slavery to freedom under white roofs. Many of the freed men who eventually established independent domiciles may have been blacks who had already been free for a period of time and had accumulated enough emotional and financial resources to both live and work away from white properties.25 Many former slaves remained with old masters or new employers as dependent workers for extended periods of time or for life. They preferred the security of food, shelter, and work provided by white households which had sustained them during bondage. Slaves who had enjoyed good relationships with masters readily accepted their offers of continued employment after manumission. Many freedmen had no alternative avenue of employment other than residential service in white households. Most blacks emerged from slavery with skills and qualifications suited only to domestic labor or farmwork; these jobs continued to be available to them only in the white residences where they had lived as slaves.
While larger numbers and a greater proportion of the total black population lived in free black‑headed households from 1790 to 1820 because of the increasing numbers of blacks who were freed, the proportion of the free black population that lived in black‑headed households remained fairly stable from 1790 to 1827. Even though free, blacks often found themselves still dependent on whites for shelter, employment, and a context within which to carry on family life. Free blacks found it very difficult to form and maintain independent households. In 1790 53.9 percent of free blacks in the southern six counties of New York lived in black‑headed households, 57.9 percent in 1800, 55.4 percent in 1810, and 59.8 percent in 1820.26 Little movement occurred within the free black population toward more autonomous situations--approximately the same proportion of free blacks lived in white households in 1790 as in 1820 (46.1 percent in 1790, 42.1 percent in 1800, 44.5 percent in 1810, and 40.2 percent in 1820).27
The first blacks to achieve freedom established a pattern which persisted thirty years later among the last blacks to be freed; it indicated that the open non‑slave economy and the supply of housing available to free blacks could only absorb from 55 to 60 percent of the free black population at a time. As the size of the free black population expanded from 3,573 blacks in 1790 to 17,122 blacks by 1820, the number of free black households grew from 563 in 1790 to 2,012 by 1820 in the southern six counties of New York. Competition for these jobs and dwelling spaces became more severe. In spite of the development of a free black community with church, charitable, burial, literary, educational, and mutual aid institutions, it was as difficult for free blacks to leave their old masters' homes and obtain work and shelter in 1820 as it had been in 1790.
Blacks who struck out for themselves and established their own households were often the more independent, assertive, and resourceful personalities in the population. Some had also been fortunate enough to have received legacies or help (in the form of land, money, skill training, or tools) from former owners which enabled them to more easily establish their own homes, farms, or small enterprises. Many of those who struggled to live independently of whites were former bondsmen whose hatred of slavery had run deep enough to inspire in them a fierce longing for autonomy at all costs. Free blacks who emerged from slavery faced job discrimination and competition from native white labor and from white immigrants whose numbers had increased in the years after the American Revolution. A black population which had been housed for over 164 years in white homes had to build or locate separate quarters and communities to shelter an entirely new independent population. Against all of these odds, and against the risks of starvation, poverty, and public dependency, free black‑headed households were formed and grew in numbers from 1790 to 1820.
As table 4 shows, a consistently large majority of free black‑headed households were headed by males between 1790 and 1820, evidencing a patriarchal type of family organization in the newly freed black population. In 1790 80.5 percent of free black household heads in the southern six counties of New York were male, 86.7 percent in 1800, 84.5 percent in 1810, and 85.5 percent in 1820 (in spite of the fact that more adult females were free in all age groups in 1820 than males).28 Even in New York City, where extremely low ratios of men to women meant that the number of free adult black women far exceeded the number of free black men in 1820 (4,683 free women and 2,913 free men over the age of fourteen),29 82 percent of free black households were still headed by men. Women disproportionately lived either as dependent servants in white households or as secondary members of free black households; only 205 out of 4,683 free black women (4.4 percent) headed free households in New York City compared to 936 out of 2,913 men (32.1 percent). In the southern six counties as a whole in 1820, 282 out of 6,620 adult free black females headed households (4.3 percent) compared to 1,661 out of 4,715 adult free
NUMBER AND PROPORTION OF FREE BLACK HOUSEHOLDS THAT WERE
HEADED BY MALES AND NUMBER AND PROPORTION OF HOUSEHOLD HEADS
THAT HAD LAST NAMES, 1790 to 1820
Number of Number Number Percent of All Percent of All
Free Black‑ Headed of Households Household
Headed by Household Headed by Heads That
Households Males Heads With Males (Where Had a Last
Last Names Sex of Head Name
County is Known)
Kings 3 1 2 ... ...
New York 168 136 22 81.0 13.1
Richmond 4 4 4 ... ...
Suffolk 52 46 28 88.5 53.8
Queens 302 234 43 77.5 14.2
Westchester 34 32 2 94.1 5.9
Total 563 453 101 80.5 17.9
Kings 0 0 0 0.0 0.0
New York 669 552 639 82.5 95.5
Richmond 3 3 3 ... ...
Suffolk 159 146 39 91.8 24.5
Queens 203 193 42 95.1 20.7
Westchester 45 42 29 95.5 64.4
Total 1,079 936 752 86.7 69.7
Kings 47 32 45 68.1 95.7
New York 1,250a 966 1,187 81.7 95.0
Richmond 6 6 0 ... ...
Suffolk 179 156 166 87.2 92.7
Queens 222 212 219 95.5 98.6
Westchester 95 91 94 95.8 98.9
Total 1,799 1,463 1,711 84.5 95.1
Kings 108b 81 108 81.8 100.0
New York 1,199c 936 1,193 82.0 99.5
Richmond 9 9 1 100.0 11.1
Suffolk 258 223 218d 86.4 84.5
Queens 285 273 206 95.8 72.3
Westchester 153e 139 147 92.0 96.1
Total 2,012f 1,661 1,873 85.5 93.1
SOURCES: The sex of the household head and the presence or absence of a listed last name was determined for each free black household which appeared in the 1790, 1800, 1810, and 1820 federal censuses. Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790; 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR; 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules.
NOTES: No proportions are listed for households headed by males or for household heads with last names for Kings and Richmond counties in 1790 and 1800 and for Richmond County in 1810 due to the small size of the samples (from three to six households). In two cases I corrected assumed 1810 census errors for New York County which assigned free black‑headed household family members to the wrong domicile. Household heads Benjamin Fish (Fourth Ward, p. 96) and Thomas Adams (Sixth Ward, p. 146a) had neither black nor white family members entered in the census columns next to their names (indicating an error). I assumed that the adjacent nine free blacks in Philip Larkwood's white household were misplaced members of the Fish family and that the eight free blacks listed on William Symon's census line really belonged in the Thomas Adams household. In both cases it would have been very unusual for a white household to employ as many as eight or nine free blacks and it is likely that these figures were entered on the wrong household line. Similar errors were located and corrected in the 1820 census for New York County. Eleven members of David Seafield's free black family were misplaced in the household listings which preceded his name (Ward Five, p. 177). The four free blacks who were listed in the white Betsy Jiltones household were reassigned to the Elsa Cooke free black household (listed after Jiltones, Ward 10, p. 127). The five free blacks listed as part of the Sidney Watson household should have been on the line below with Rachael Goodwin, and the nine free blacks on Rachael's census line should have been entered one line below with Abraham Marten. Both Rachael and Abraham were free black heads of household (Ward 10, p. 130).
aThis figure was reduced to 1,182 when calculating the proportion of free households that were headed by males. Sixty‑eight of the households were headed by blacks whose sex was undetermined, thereby reducing the number of household heads whose sex was known to 1,182 and the corresponding six‑county total from 1,799 to 1,731 households.
bIn addition to the eighteen households headed by females, the sex of nine household heads is unknown. Therefore, the number of households is reduced from 108 to 99 when calculating the proportion of households headed by males where the sex of the head is known.
cThe sex of fifty‑eight free black New York City household heads is unknown. The number of households is reduced from 1,199 to 1,141 when calculating the proportion of households headed by males where the sex of the head is known. Free black women headed 205 households in New York City.
dTwo free black heads of household in Suffolk bore the descriptive (rather than proper) last name "Negro" (as in Binah Negro) and were considered to have no last name. Similarly, the word "Black" was disqualified as a last name in the case of "Lydia A. Black" in New York City (Ward 5, p. 213). The surname "Black," however, was ordinarily counted as a real last name due to common black and white usage as such.
eTwelve free black households were headed by females and two were headed by blacks whose sex was unable to be determined. The number of heads was reduced from 153 to 151 in calculations on the proportion of households headed by males to exclude those of unknown sex.
fThis total was reduced by sixty‑nine to 1,943 in order to exclude household heads of unknown sex when calculating the proportion of households headed by males.
black males (35.2 percent).30
As table 4 shows, in 1790 only 17.9 percent of free black household heads had last names listed in census returns. This reflected both the recently enslaved status of most of these heads of household and probable widespread indifference on the part of census takers to the existence of last names among both the slave and free black populations.31 By 1800 a much larger 69.7 percent of free black household heads displayed last names in census returns, rising to 95.1 percent in 1810 and 93.1 percent in 1820. This change indicated either a dramatic increase in the use of last names by free blacks or heightened awareness and inclusion of black surnames by census officials. By 1810 black surnames which had probably long been in use within the black community had had enough time to surface in white official documents. As the black population inexorably moved from slavery to freedom whites began to accord them some of the privileges which belonged to free people--one of which was the right to bear a family name.
* * * * *
Newly formed free black families were small; the average size of the free black household at 3.4 persons in 1790 represented the earliest stage of the evolution of the black family from slavery to freedom. Because of the gradual nature of emancipation slaves were freed individually; they emerged from bondage to live independently while their spouses and children were either still enslaved, held as bound servants, or lived voluntarily as dependent workers in white households as a means of employment. Since children born to slave women before 1799 were lifetime slaves and children born to slave women between 1799 and 1827 owed service until adulthood to their mothers' masters, large numbers of such offspring were missing from free black‑headed households which were later established when one or both of their parents were freed. In 1820 44.9 percent of black children under the age of fourteen lived in white households apart from free black parents (85.4 percent of whom had already been manumitted by 1820).32 Even though the average free black household in 1820 contained 4.8 persons, it included an average of only 1.8 children33 (far below the real number of children ever produced by a biological couple).34 The free black household was disproportionately composed of adults due to the retention of black children in white households.
As increasing numbers of the black population were freed between 1785 and 1827, newly manumitted family members were able to join their relatives who had already established independent residences. As table 5 shows, the
FREE BLACK‑HEADED AND WHITE HOUSEHOLDS:
COMPARISON OF AVERAGE FAMILY SIZES, 1790 to 1820
Number of Number of Average Family Number of Number of Average Number of Persons
Free Black‑ Members in Size of Free White Members in Family Difference Between
Headed These Free Black‑Headed Households These White Size of the Average
Households Black‑Headed Households Households White Free Black and White
County Households Households Household
Kings 3 11 3.7 544 3,021 5.6 1.9
New York 168 726 4.3 5,854 28,945 4.9 0.6
Richmond 4 15 3.8 562 2,945 5.2 1.4
Suffolk 52 191 3.7 2,806 14,310 5.1 1.4
Queens 302 812 2.7 2,246 12,886 5.7 3.0
Westchester 34 169 5.0 3,763 22,204 5.9 0.9
Total 563 1,924 3.4 15,775 84,311 5.3 1.9
Kings 0 ... ... 707 3,953 5.6 ...
New York 669 2,136 3.2 11,199 52,993 4.7 1.5
Richmond 3 11 3.7 686 3,806 5.5 1.8
Suffolk 159 645 4.1 3,283 17,837 5.4 1.3
Queens 203 894 4.4 2,675 13,948 5.2 0.8
Westchester 45 237 5.3 4,180 25,530 6.1 0.8
Total 1,079 3,923 3.6 22,730 118,067 5.2 1.6
Kings 47 176 3.7 1,086 6,390 5.9 2.2
New York 1,250 4,937 3.9 15,859 84,421 5.3 1.4
Richmond 6 31 5.2 811 4,636 5.7 0.5
Suffolk 179 733 4.1 3,528 19,355 5.5 1.4
Queens 222 1,106 5.0 2,711 16,073 5.9 0.9
Westchester 95 444 4.7 4,269 27,972 6.5 1.8
Total 1,799 7,427 4.1 28,264 158,847 5.6 1.5
Kings 108 478 4.4 1,718 9,052 5.3 0.9
New York 1,199 6,099 5.1 18,264 109,697 6.0 0.9
Richmond 9 43 4.8 942 5,615 6.0 1.2
Suffolk 258 1,030 4.0 4,141 22,441 5.4 1.4
Queens 285 1,396 4.9 3,154 18,312 5.8 0.9
Westchester 153 722 4.7 5,178 30,795 5.9 1.2
Total 2,012 9,768 4.8 33,397 195,912 5.9 1.1
SOURCES: Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790; 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR; 1800 Census Manuscript Population Schedules; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules.
NOTES: The total number of households in each county was counted by hand for the complete 1790 and 1800 federal censuses. The total number of households was also individually counted for Kings, Richmond, Suffolk, Queens, and Westchester counties in both the 1810 and 1820 federal censuses. The total number of households in New York County in 1810 was hand‑counted for wards one, two, three, four, and nine and estimated for wards five, six, seven, eight, and ten based on the standard number of households per page multiplied by the number of census pages. An additional 105 households appeared in debtor's prison (Ward six, pp. 134a‑135a) in addition to the 17,018 households counted by these methods, totalling 17,123 households in New York City. The total number of households in New York County in 1820 was estimated based on the standard number of households per page (which differed from ward to ward) multiplied by the number of census pages for the county. The known number of free black‑headed households (ascertained in a separate household‑by‑household analysis of the black population) was then subtracted from the total number of households in each county to arrive at the number of white households in each area.
Slaves who lived in free black‑headed households are included in all figures on free black family size (four slaves in Kings County in 1790, five in New York County and five in Westchester County in 1800, nine in New York County in 1810, one in Suffolk County, two in Queens County, and eighteen in New York County in 1820).
The number of white households in 1790 excludes the three census lines headed by Samuel Dodge, William Sloane, and Jameson Cox in the North Ward of New York City (Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790, p. 125; 1790 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, p. 45). Dodge (keeper of the Poor House in 1800), Sloane, and Cox were in charge of large institutions rather than private households. The white population of New York City excludes 674 whites in these institutions. The number of white households in 1800 in New York City excludes eight census lines of institutions headed by William Allison, Thomas Hazard, Samuel Dodge, John Pray, and Alexander Lamb/Jacob Evans (1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, pp. 98, 108, 109, 149a). In determining white family size the white population of New York City for 1800 is reduced by the 1,146 whites in these institutions. In 1810 the number of white households excludes fourteen census lines of institutions and military regiments in New York City. The number of white family members in the population is reduced by the 2,129 whites in these institutions. The number of white households in New York City in 1820 excludes four census lines of institutions (the State Prison, Penitentiary, Alms House, New York Hospital) and four lines covering the white population of Governor's Bedlow's, and Ellis's Islands and the Battery (where the population was enumerated by area rather than household). 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York County, reel 16, pp. 37a, 170; reel 17, pp. 110, 114 (Wards 1, 5, 9). The number of white family members in the population excludes the 3,123 whites in these institutions and districts. The number of white households in Kings County excludes the three census lines for the Navyyard and the Poorhouse. The white population figures exclude the 374 whites in these categories. 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, Kings County pp. 163, 170.
average size of the free black‑headed household increased from 3.4 members in 1790, to 3.6 members in 1800, to 4.1 members in 1810, to 4.8 members by 1820. Even though the size of the average free black family grew by 1.4 persons over a thirty‑year period, it still remained substantially smaller in size than the average white family. In 1790 the average white household contained 1.9 persons more than the average black household. This gap progressively narrowed until by 1820 the average white household was only 1.1 persons larger than the average free black household. The size of the free black family had improved between 1790 and 1820 but still reflected the past lower fertility of the slave population and the fragmented, partially enslaved status of some of its members.
The distribution of free black household sizes also strongly indicates the disrupted nature of newly formed black families. In 1790, 23.4 percent of free black households consisted of a single person who lived alone. Since only 27.4 percent of the black population was free in 1790, the large proportion of single‑person households consisted of free blacks who were still separated from their families by the institution of slavery. The solitary household head was likely to have older parents, a spouse, or children living elsewhere in bondage. The unusually high proportion of freed blacks that lived alone in the southern six counties of New York in 1790 stood in contrast to the normal distribution of family members among other population groups. In most mainland colonial white populations only from 5 to 10 percent of white households contained just one member.35 As table 6 shows the proportion of free black households in New York that consisted of only one person declined sharply from 23.4 percent in 1790 to 7.7 percent in 1800 and down to 2.7 percent by 1820. As increasing numbers and proportions of the black population were freed, black families grew larger and fewer people lived alone.
Between 1790 and 1820 the proportion of free black households which contained either one or two members declined while the proportion of three‑member households remained similar overall. Many of the smaller households in 1820 were composed of older blacks over the age of forty‑five. Approximately half of all single‑person free black households in the southern six counties of New York in 1820 consisted of elderly blacks who lived alone, many of whom were probably widowed rather than separated from still‑enslaved spouses. Almost 20 percent of two‑person households contained couples over the age of forty‑five, at least some of whose children were already grown rather than still absent due to enslavement or bound service.36 As the black population began to be distributed more normally, the proportion of small households shrank and the membership of such households was increasingly composed of the elderly, for whom small household size was a routine byproduct of the human life cycle rather than of the vicissitudes of gradual
SIZE DISTRIBUTION OF FREE BLACK‑HEADED HOUSEHOLDS,
COMBINED SOUTHERN SIX COUNTIES OF NEW YORK,
1790 TO 1820
Sizes of Free Black‑Headed Households
Years Number of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 & over
NUMBERS OF HOUSEHOLDS IN EACH SIZE GROUP
1790 563 132 97 85 95 64 41 24 12 6 2 3 2a
1800 1,079 83 257 249 181 137 93 42 23 9 3 1 1b
1810 1,799 67 394 385 308 229 185 104 52 29 21 11 14c
1820 2,012d 55 272 320 376 336 233 154 112 67 27 23 37e
PERCENTAGES OF HOUSEHOLDS IN EACH SIZE GROUP
1790 563 23.4 17.2 15.1 16.9 11.4 7.3 4.3 2.1 1.1 0.4 0.5 0.4
1800 1,079 7.7 23.8 23.1 16.8 12.7 8.6 3.9 2.1 0.8 0.3 0.1 0.1
1810 1,799 3.7 21.9 21.4 17.1 12.7 10.3 5.8 2.9 1.6 1.2 0.6 0.7
1820 2,012 2.7 13.5 15.9 18.7 16.7 11.6 7.7 5.6 3.3 1.3 1.1 1.8
SOURCES: The number of members was counted in each free black‑headed household which appeared in the 1790, 1800, 1810, and 1820 federal censuses. Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790; 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR; 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules.
NOTE: These figues include slaves who lived in free black‑headed households (four in 1790, ten in 1800, nine in 1810, and twenty‑one in 1820).
aOne household had twelve members and one household had fourteen members.
bOne household had twelve members.
cThese fourteen households included six households with twelve members each, three households with thirteen members each, one household with fifteen members, two households each with sixteen members, and two households each containing eighteen members.
dTwo presumably free black heads of household in Suffolk County (Kedo, p. 184a and Cimon January, p. 186) were excluded from this study because no household members at all were listed in the census columns which followed their names.
eThese thirty‑seven households include eleven households with twelve members each, eight households with thirteen members each, six households with fourteen members each, five households with fifteen members each, two households with sixteen members each, two households with seventeen members each, one household with nineteen members, one household containing twenty‑three members, and one household composed of twenty‑four free blacks (totalling 527 free blacks).
Real growth occurred from 1790 to 1820 in the proportion of free black households which contained four or more persons. It is unknown what proportion of free black households consisted of nuclear families,38 but by 1820 the increasing proportions of larger free black households indicated the formation of more complex and complete family groups. In 1790 44.2 percent of free black households contained four or more members, 45.4 percent in 1800, 53 percent in 1810, and 67.8 percent by 1820. By 1810 a group of very large free black households had emerged; Adam Marshall and Richard Garrison each headed households which contained eighteen members in New York City.39
Free black families sometimes incorporated slaves into their households. It is likely that these slaves were family members who had been purchased from their owners and would later be manumitted by their relatives. One free black household owned slaves in 1790, three in 1800, six in 1810, and fourteen in 1820.40 Slave family members were generally adults; only two out of the twenty‑one slaves held in 1820 were under the age of fourteen. Twenty out of the twenty‑one slaves were female, indicating that they had been purchased either by their husbands or other relatives who often played a protective role toward slave women.
Although slavery ended on July 4, 1827 in New York State, seventeen slaves still remained in the southern six counties of New York in 1830.41 All were female: ten were under ten years of age, five were aged twenty‑four to thirty‑six years, and two were aged thirty‑six to fifty‑five years. Distributed among eight free black households in the Eighth Ward of New York City, these seventeen slaves were probably also family members. William Ritchinson of King Street held one of the slaves while seven free black households42 (all on Thompson Street) owned the other sixteen slaves.
* * * * *
For the many freed slaves who did not remain with their old masters upon manumission, freedom meant relocation and movement. Whether or not they set up independent free black‑headed households or lived in the residences of new white employers, free blacks moved around as they endeavored to reunite their families and seek work. Large numbers of free blacks exchanged slave service with their former masters for free domestic service with new white employers; this involved a massive voluntary reorganization of the black labor force within the household/farm sector of the white economy. On April 27, 1816, David Pell of Eastchester certified that "Nancy, a black woman, formerly the property of Isaac Ward, has been in my employ for five years in succession, during which time I found her honest, industrious, and sober."43 In New England, "some freedmen found work on the farms, but many upon liberation forsook the country and went to the towns, where more varied opportunities for employment attracted them." They worked as domestic servants, common laborers, or found employment on "whaling or coastal vessels." Many also remained with their former masters as hired servants; for them "freedom frequently wrought no change whatever in their labor status."44
Concern was voiced publicly in New York about the potential hazards faced by newly freed blacks as they sought to establish themselves in either town or country. Freedom's Journal, a black newspaper, suggested that the New York Manumission Society, which had been so instrumental in securing both the private manumission and gradual emancipation laws and a final end to slavery on July 4, 1827, should issue public statements of counsel for the newly emancipated population. The editors of Freedom's Journal, also expected much from the white community of former slaveholders: "Should their present owners be requested (where ever it is convenient) to retain them in their service; or, in the cultivation of their lands; the arrangement might be mutually beneficial. Where this is not the case, we hope every master, before parting with his slaves, will give them such advice, as may influence their future conduct and pursuits." The paper advised that if the freedmen "should turn their attention to agriculture, for most of them are acquainted with that business, they will be likely to succeed, and became useful citizens. And no doubt but their former owners who have enjoyed the fruits of their labours, will grant them some facilities." Blacks were warned to stay away from the cities: "It is very important, if possible, to prevent them from flocking into our large cities, where there is but little for them to do, and where every thing is calculated to draw their uncultivated minds from the line of duty."45
Contrary to this advice, population fluctuations within the southern six counties of New York indicate that many free blacks left rural areas of some counties and moved to large towns and to New York City. These movements took place within the general context of only modest black population growth at an average annual rate of 1.7 percent for the southern six counties of the state between 1790 and 1830. Black population increase was particularly small between 1810 and 1820, leading to speculation that large numbers of slaves (and bound children) were illegally sold out of New York State by owners who were eager to both profit from the high demand and prices for such labor in the southern states and to avoid eventual loss of their property investment through emancipation.46 The proportion of blacks in the total southern six county population also declined between 1790 and 1830 from 13.3 to 7.7 percent,47 indicative of both increased white immigration and minimal black
GROWTH OF THE BLACK POPULATION IN THE SOUTHERN SIX
COUNTIES OF NEW YORK, 1790 TO 1830
Number of Number of Total Black Percent Increase or
Year Slaves Free Blacks Population Decrease in the Total
Black Population Since
Previous Census Year
1790 2,311 813 3,124 ...
1800 1,547 1,419 2,966 ‑5.1
1810 791 2,340 3,131 +5.6
1820 559 2,648 3,207 ‑2.4
1830 ... ... 3,108 ‑3.1
1790 1,102 1,125 2,227 ...
1800 895 1,013 1,908 ‑14.3
1810 413 1,373 1,786 ‑6.4
1820 323 1,508 1,831 +2.5
1830 ... ... 2,013 +9.9
1790 755 127 882 +27.3
1800 675 83 758 ‑14.1
1810 437 274 711 ‑6.2
1820 532 78 610 ‑14.2
1830 ... ... 552 ‑9.5
1790 1,418 359 1,777 +42.2
1800 1,232 498 1,730 ‑2.6
1810 973 914 1,887 +9.1
1820 205 1,638 1,843 ‑2.3
1830 ... ... 2,115 +14.8
1790 1,479 47 1,526 +15.9
1800 1,519 331 1,850 +21.2
1810 1,118 735 1,853 +0.2
1820 879 882 1,761 ‑5.0
1830 ... ... 2,007 +14.0
NEW YORK COUNTY
1790 2,382 1,102 3,484 +65.7
1800 2,875 3,507 6,382 +83.2
1810 1,686 8,137 9,823 +53.9
1820 518 10,368 10,886 +10.8
1830 17 13,954 13,971 +28.3
SOURCES: Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790; 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR; 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1830 Census, Aggregate Amount of Persons. . . ."
As table 7 shows, Queens County's black population remained stable in size while both Suffolk and Richmond counties lost black population between 1790 and 1830; no black population growth occurred at all within these three counties over a forty‑year period. Free blacks in Richmond County may have been particularly eager to leave the island; very few free black households had been established there.48 The number of slaves in the county increased rather than decreased from 1810 through 1825 (probably due to slave purchases from other counties); free blacks in Richmond faced restricted employment opportunities with and discrimination by intensely pro‑slavery local whites.
The black populations of both Westchester and Kings counties rose moderately between 1790 and 1830. This indicated that no major exodus of the local populations had occurred and that only modest natural reproduction had continued to take place. It also suggested that no significant overall in‑migration had arrived in Westchester and Kings from other counties as the general black population was freed. Within Kings County, however, free blacks from the five rural towns migrated to the more populous town of Brooklyn.49 While Brooklyn's black population expanded from 470 in 1790 to 1,244 by 1830, the proportion of all Kings County blacks that lived in Brooklyn also rose sharply, from 30.8 percent in 1790 to 62 percent by 1830:50
Black of all Kings
Black Population, County Blacks
Year Population, Town of that Lived in(Federal Census) Kings County Brooklyn Brooklyn
1790 1,526 470 30.8
1800 1,850 640 34.6
1810 1,853 668 36.0
1820 1,761 847 48.1
1830 2,007 1,244a 62.0
aThis figure includes 973 blacks in Brooklyn (Five Wards) and 271 blacks in Brooklyn Township.
Tremendous black population growth occurred in New York City between 1790 and 1830 with numbers rising from 3,484 to 13,971 persons. Low child to woman ratios in 1820 and 183051 indicate that this growth spurt did not come from natural reproduction. Free blacks from Queens, Suffolk, and Richmond counties inundated New York City; they transferred both themselves and potential population (in terms of future fertility) from the outlying counties to the city.52 The low ratio of black men to women in New York County in both 1820 and 183053 indicated that either there had been only a small influx of freed males from surrounding areas or (more likely) that incoming males only partially balanced the traditional excess of adult females who served as domestics in the city.
* * * * *
Free blacks who lived in white households were distributed randomly throughout towns and counties according to the availability of work. Concentrated areas of black settlement also evolved composed of freedmen who established their own homes. Free black residential patterns had emerged within the ten wards of New York City by 1820.54 While almost no free black households appeared in the First Ward (most free blacks in this area lived in white households), large clusters of free black‑headed households existed on certain streets and in areas of the Sixth Ward. Groups of black households often appeared together as freedmen were either economically restricted to certain streets or dwellings in their selection of housing or chose to live near each other out of kin, friendship, or community ties. Four such adjacent female‑headed free black households were located in the Seventh Ward: Charlotte Miller (three members), Sally Jackson (five members), Phebe Turner (three members), and Margartt Jackson (five members).55
Black communities of freedmen developed in each of the other southern five counties of New York. When the bulk of Richmond County slaves were freed in 1827, many moved to the Sandy Ground area.56 In the 1830s blacks began to settle on lands in the semi‑rural outskirts of Brooklyn (present‑day Bedford Stuyvesant) in Kings County. Known as Weeksville‑Carrsville, the section contained forty property‑owning black families in 1841.57 Large settlements of impoverished former slaves lived in the towns of Jamaica and Flushing in Queens County.58 Many free blacks congregated in Flushing due to the heavy presence in the town of Quakers,59 whose religious committments included the extension of aid to former slaves. An exodus of some Methodist Flushing blacks occurred in 1827; black religious leaders Susannah and Moses Coss brought a large part of their congregation to settle at Lake Success in the nearby Queens County town of North Hempstead. These black families bought land along Valley Road and joined with Matinecock Indians and freedmen already there to form a racially mixed enclave.60
Two separate black communities sprang up in the town of Easthampton in Suffolk County. John Lyon Gardiner of Gardiner's Island (off‑shore from Easthampton) noted in the 1790s that freed blacks on Long Island remained with their masters after emancipation "on approximately the same terms as when they were slaves." Gardiner's ex‑slaves returned to work as laborers on the island (nine free blacks and eight slaves lived in the Gardiner household in 1790) and they were paid their wages in food, clothing (homespun), and other necessities; freedom made "little practical difference in their everyday mode of living."61 Some manumitted slaves of the Gardiner family, however, settled in a village called Freetown within the town of Easthampton.62 The deaths of six black children between 1834 and 1839 in Freetown were listed in the records of the Church of Easthampton. On May 28, 1856, Abraham Pharaoh of Freetown was married to Catharine Jack of Freetown in this same church.63 The other free black settlement in Easthampton (called Snookville or Eastville), was located in the Sag Harbor area of the town. In 1839 Sag Harbor residents Lewis Cuffee (of Indian/black descent) and William Prime, along with Charles Plato of Easthampton organized the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in their community.64
In some instances free blacks were offered specific settlements or were placed on lands by former owners. In 1827 and 1829 Samuel Cornish widely advertised in the black press that 2,000 acres of land were available to blacks at low prices on the banks of the Delaware, seventy miles from New York City.65 Judge Thomas Treadwell of Smithtown, Long Island moved to Plattsburg in Clinton County in 1793 or 1794 accompanied by forty slaves. He later freed them and colonized them on the high ground a few miles northwest of Plattsburg called "Richland," now known as "Dudy" or "Nigger Hill."66 The Monthly Meeting of Quakers in Purchase, Westchester County ordered Friends between 1781 and 1784 to visit former Quaker slaveholders and their freedmen and report on their status. Local Quakers had settled freed slaves on a tract of land north of Horton's Pond (now Silverlake), known as "Nigger Hills" in Harrison. A black community developed on the site, a vestige of which still remains in northern White Plains.67
Many other Quaker meetings in the southern six counties of New York attempted to fulfill the Quaker mandate to extend help and guidance to the former slaves of Quaker masters. In 1781 the New York Yearly Meeting suggested that former slaves ought to be compensated. They later appointed a committee in 1783 to visit those members who had set slaves free to ascertain whether "something in justice may appear due to such Negroes."68 On August 7, 1781, the Harrison Meeting (Westchester County) resolved to investigate the temporal and spiritual condition as well as the education of the children of blacks they had freed in accordance with the example set by the Yearly Meeting at Flushing. On April 12, 1782 the committee reported its findings that "the condition of most of the negroes set free was satisfactory; but there was 'great shortness in regard to instructing youth, though some appear careful on that account.'"69 As evidence of Quaker concern for former slaves, Matthew Franklin, a Flushing farmer, ordered in his 1779 will that his executors were "to put at interest 150, the interest to be applied to the use of providing poor Negro children books, and also towards paying their schooling, them that their parents did belong among the People called Quakers."70
Many freedmen relied on the help of individual former masters rather than on the efforts of organized religious or charitable groups as they struggled to adjust economically to liberty. Elderly ex‑slaves, in particular, often remained dependent on their old masters for maintenance during their last years and for burial at death. The long legacy of black dependency and owner paternalism produced by slavery was not easily eradicated. Masters continued to remember their ex‑slaves in their wills; Catharine Bedell of Southfield made the following testamentary provision in 1829: "I give and bequeath unto the colored man Peter, formerly my slave, the sum of 25 dollars to be expended by my son Israel in the purchase of a suit of clothes for the said Peter."71
Slaves who were freed by Hannah Pugsley and her father James continued to live on the Pugsley estate in New Rochelle as free workers and were later amply provided for by Pugsley at her death. In 1789, shortly before his death, James Pugsley freed his adult slaves Cate and Plato and directed that his slaves Nanne and Johns [Johno] should be freed at ages eighteen and twenty‑one. James Pugsley's daughter Hannah registered the birth of a child named Allixet Tucet to one of her slaves on August 2, 1799 and freed a woman Hannah on August 15, 1799; in 1802 she complied with her father's wishes and manumitted Johno.72
Although Hannah Pugsley still owned four slaves in 1800, by 1810 a large group of fifteen free blacks (and no slaves) lived on her premises. According to the 1820 federal census for New Rochelle, Hannah Pugsley (over age forty‑five) lived singly with seventeen free blacks resident in the household.73 It is likely that some of the slaves freed by Pugsley and her father since 1789 continued (along with their families) to live with Pugsley as free servants. Plato, who had been manumitted in 1789, adopted the surname Pugsley74 and appeared in the 1800 census for the town of Eastchester as the free black head of a household which contained five members. By 1828, however, he had become dependent on Pugsley in old age.75
Hannah Pugsley's January 8, 1828 will76 left substantial legacies of either money or lifetime maintenance to several of the free blacks who were connected with the family or who still lived on the property. Susan Surrington, wife of Samuel, was to receive $250. Pugsley made elaborate provisions for the permanent care of Lewy, Plato (freed by her father in 1789), and for the family of the deceased Johno Guion77 (whom she had manumitted in 1802). Johno's wife Caty and daughters Mary and Eliza Guion were to share $250 and were to be maintained out of the interest and produce of the estate for life. Caty, along with Lewy and Plato, were to be supported and to have their rooms in her house until death, only after which time could the estate finally be sold.
Even slaves who established independent residences often remained dependent to a great extent on their former owners. At his death in 1785 Thomas Dering of Shelter Island owned several slaves, one of whom was Matilda, earlier valued at 30 in 1765. On October 1, 1795 his sons Sylvester and Henry Dering and son‑in‑law Nathaniel Gardiner manumitted Matilda, whom they had jointly inherited from Dering. In 1797 Sylvester and Henry Dering noted that 10 was owed to Matilda as her legacy from the estate of Thomas Dering. The next year Henry Dering signed an agreement with Matilda in which he loaned her $75 which was "expended in building a house for the said Matilda situated on the Subscribers land." As soon as Matilda paid the note (with interest) she would be entitled to the "said house or building . . . (but to no land) to remove the same or paying ground rent as may be hereafter agreed upon." This arrangement placed Matilda on her master's property and guaranteed that she would remain landless for the forseeable future.78
On December 11, 1800, Matilda married Cesar at Shelter Island. She appeared in 1800 and 1810 as the head of a black household in Shelter Island which contained three persons and then two persons. In spite of her marriage and her separate household, Matilda remained closely linked with and in debt to her former master from 1798 through at least 1818. It is likely that Cesar was a slave; this would partially account for Matilda's financial difficulties and for the fact that she (rather than her husband) contracted the debts and was considered to be the head of household in the 1800 and 1810 censuses. According to an account kept by Henry P. Dering from 1803 through 1818 (covering the years 1798 to 1818) Matilda accumulated debts for such items as "rent of garden and privileges of house and firewood," "one pair [of] shoes for Ceaser of Mr. Ripley," fresh beef, one "fatt sheep," one bushel of rye, and for "use of [the] team cart of two loads driftwood" which totalled $181.43. During this time Matilda had only been able to repay $32.44 of this sum by working for Dering, through cash payments made by two other Shelter Island blacks on her account, by doing washing for Silas Hick, and by Cesar cutting wood for Dering several times between 1806 and 1818. Matilda chronically found it necessary to rely on the borrowed resources of her former owner to provide herself with housing, food, clothing, and fuel.79
Freed slaves often found themselves unable to survive adequately within a white power system which featured entrenched economic, social, and legal discrimination against blacks. When faced with grave economic or personal crises they looked toward the only influential person they knew to intercede on their behalf--their old slaveowner. Many free blacks maintained contact over several generations with the entire families of their former masters. Mintus Northup, who belonged to the Northup family in Hoasic, Rensselaer County, New York, was freed at his owner's demise in 1803. Between 1803 and his death in 1829, Mintus lived and worked on four different farms, one of which was the place of Clark Northup, a relative of his old master. Mintus's son Solomon, born free in 1808, married at the age of twenty‑one and began a succession of careers which included canal repair work, a navigation business, farming (on one of the farms where his father formerly resided), fiddle‑playing and driving a hack for a boarding house; his wife was employed at various hotels and boarding houses as a cook.
In 1841, however, Solomon Northup was kidnapped and sold south as a slave where he remained until 1853. At this time a white man befriended Solomon and wrote letters to Northup's former employers in New York telling them of his wrongful enslavement. These letters were forwarded to Solomon's wife who "hastened to the neighboring village of Sandy Hill, to consult with Henry B. Northup, and obtain his advice and assistance in the matter." Northup personally travelled to Louisiana legally empowered to bring Solomon back to New York. Solomon later wrote that "Henry B. Northup . . . is a relative of the family in which my forefathers were thus held to service, and from which they took the name I bear. To this fact may be attributed the persevering interest he has taken in my behalf."80
The extended relationships which were maintained over long periods of time between many former slaves and their masters indicate that free blacks found it very difficult initially to fully sustain themselves and their families. Many free black parents between 1785 and 1827 were either married to slave partners or lived as dependent workers in white households and were unable to establish homes within which to care for their children. Free black (and Indian)81 parents who found themselves unable to support some or all of their children until adulthood indentured their free offspring out to service or apprenticeship in white homes.82 Women, in particular, found it difficult to raise their children alone--the majority of indentures where made by mothers rather than by fathers or by both parents together.83
Both the trickle of black parents who were freed during the early eighteenth century and the floodtide of mothers and fathers who were manumitted between 1785 and 1827 resorted to indentured service as a placement for their children.84 Frances Gerret, a free black woman, indentured her son Richard to Agnes May of New York City for fourteen years beginning on January 24, 1720. Six‑year‑old Lucretia was bound out by her free black mother Rachel on March 4, 1796 to serve until age eighteen. On May 4, 1796 an eight‑year‑old girl was bound out by her free black mother to serve David Woodhull of Brookhaven until age eighteen. Emelia Hazard apprenticed her five‑year‑old daughter Rachel Hazard to Caesar Johns in 1797 until her eighteenth birthday to learn the "art of housekeeping." On May 21, 1807 James B. Chever of New York City freed Jane States and her son Samson States. One day later Jane bound Samson (age six years and nine months) as an apprentice to Chever for the term of fourteen years and three months. On July 20, 1807, however, Jane removed Samson from Chever and instead bound him to James Stephenson of New London, Connecticut for fourteen years.85
While the bulk of the children were bound out to service by free black mothers who were without either a free husband, homes of their own, or resources with which to keep their children, some free black couples also gave their offspring up as indentured servants. Ephraim and Phillis bound their three‑year‑old son Isaac on January 19, 1807 to serve Cephas Foster until age twenty‑one.86 On April 8, 1800 "Pomp a melatter man and Sary Arch his wife" bound their son William to David Day to serve until age twenty‑one. On the same day they bound their child Sonney to Capt. John Havens, also until age twenty‑one. On March 26, 1806, Sary Arch alone indentured her "Indian boy" James at age four to serve James Foster of Southampton until age twenty‑one.87
The fragility of the newly manumitted black family is reflected not only in the binding out of children to service but in the fact that many free black children became the charges of public poor authorities. A group of thirteen service indentures were located which were written between 1792 and 180888 for free black children who had been born between 1779 and 1798. Five of the children were specifically listed as free‑born blacks; the other eight children had also either been born free, been purchased from owners by free parents, or been manumitted by masters either alone or to their parents' care. Four of the five known free‑born children were under the care of the Commissioners of the Almshouse in New York City. Their free parents had either died or become unable to provide for them. Ephraim Williams was one of the free‑born boys; he was apprenticed by the Almshouse Commissioners on July 30, 1792, at age "seven years five months and eleven days" to New York City baker Lawrence Fisher until age twenty‑one.89 The circumstances of Tom Heady's birth are unknown; at age five in 1797 the overseers of the poor of New Castle in Westchester County placed Tom to work at the "farming business" of Nathaniel Conklin of New Castle until age twenty‑one.90
Many of the children who wound up under the care of local overseers of the poor were casualties of the voluntary manumission and gradual emancipation processes, with neither parents nor masters to provide for them. Voluntary manumission meant that children often had to rely on only a single parent while the other parent and immediate relatives were still enslaved. The complex provisions of the gradual emancipation law almost guaranteed that a large number of free black children would be bound out by poor authorities. In addition to children born between 1799 and 1804 who were bound out to service by overseers of the poor under the infant abandonment program, some of the children who were born during the year following March 29, 1799 were freed as infants under the one‑year moratorium on normal manumission procedures incorporated into the gradual emancipation act and could have immediately become dependent.
Black children who were born free after the end of the abandonment program between March 31, 1804 and July 4, 1827 (many of whom owed service to their mothers' masters) could also have become dependent on town overseers of the poor in a number of ways. Eliza, born on August 15, 1806, became chargeable to the town and was bound out by the overseers of the poor of Flushing at age ten to serve as an apprentice until age eighteen.91 Children who were in Eliza's position could have either been born initially to free parents, purchased by free parents, or given up by owners to free parents (after 1809) who subsequently became unable to maintain them. Masters who owned the unexpired service time of a child born between 1799 and 1827 sometimes died without heirs; executors would presumably either try to sell the child's time as part of the estate settlement or give the child up to overseers of the poor to be bound out. Older children could have been bound out to service at age eighteen until twenty‑one if their service obligations to their masters had been forfeited due to owner noncompliance with laws in effect after March 31, 1817.92
A group of ninety‑three New York City indentures were located for such children born between 1805 and 1825.93 The indenture agreements were written between 1818 and 1831, mainly in the 1820s. These children served out their indentures beyond the legal end of slavery in New York State in 1827, as they would have to owners entitled to twenty‑one, twenty‑five, or twenty‑eight years of their service. All of the males were bound out until age twenty‑one, and the females (except for one indenture which ended at fourteen) until age eighteen. They were bound out to service between age five and eighteen, at an average age of ten years (median age 9.5 years). Put out to service by almshouse authorities, fifty‑nine of the children were indentured as servants, seventeen as farm workers, one as a house servant, one as a hairdresser, one as a painter, one as a barber, and thirteen to unspecified occupations. Three of the children were placed in free black households. The Commissioners of the Almshouse and Bridewell of New York City apprenticed seven‑year‑old Betsey James as a servant for eleven years to free blacks George and Maria Wilson.94
Five of the ninety‑three children were bound out under the auspices of the New York Manumission Society, which had secured their freedom from illegal slavery or servitude. These children were homeless and liable to be indentured out because of sudden emancipation during childhood. A black girl Priscilla, age fifteen, was brought to New York by Capt. Steele from Philadelphia in 1797 and sold to Niven Wilson, a New York City cooper, "by which sale she became free and was liberated by the interference of the New York Manumission Society. It [was] ordered that she be bound out."95
Some of the black children born to slave women between 1818 and 1827 may have wound up in the Colored Orphan Asylum in the years immediately after its opening in 1836;96 prior to this time, black orphans had been housed in the almshouse.97 Both children born completely free and children born owing service (some of whom still owed labor to their mothers' masters as late as 1848 until they reached age twenty‑one) may have lived in the Colored Orphan Asylum until bound out to service if they became dependent. The Asylum's policy was to either restore children to any surviving parents at age twelve or to indenture them out to service at this time.98
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Newly organized free black families were often unable to shelter either themselves, their dependent children, or their aged. Individual adult as well as child family members resorted to indentured service as a means of temporarily acquiring funds or of long‑term self‑support. Twenty‑two‑year‑old John Jackson bound himself as a servant to New York City butcher John White in 1803 for a period of four years.99 One manumitted black woman passed from slavery to indentured service and back to full freedom through self‑purchase within a ten month period. Isaac Ives of New York City freed his slave Jane (or Jinny) on February 1, 1804. Two days later Jane bound herself to Joseph King of New York City for $65 to serve for nine years. The following August King sold Jane to William Hevan for $65 for a term of three years and ten months of service. On November 29, 1804 Hevan released Jane from the indenture after having received from her $20 in service and $45 in cash.100 Free Indians also commonly bound themselves out to service in New York.101
One of the primary concerns of manumission legislation between 1712 and 1817 was to safeguard the public poor rolls against a deluge of impoverished former slaves. Many manumitted blacks did become dependent; freed with no training in self‑responsibility and fit in most cases only to perform domestic services or farm labor, they faced discrimination, competition from white workers, limited housing--and often poverty. Free blacks who maintained independent households but who had scanty financial resources faced pauperism when confronted with sudden unemployment, illness, or old age. Those blacks who lived and worked in white households after manumission were vulnerable to homelessness and dependency upon the deaths of their employers or upon discharge from service. Since many of their family members and friends were still enslaved or in a similarly insecure position, when former masters were unwilling or unable to provide help freedmen turned to poor authorities as a last resort.
According to the Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Alms House and Bridewell of New York City for the year April 1, 1814 to April 1, 1815, almost 70 percent of black families in the city had been given relief in their homes. These 1,233 black families102 constituted 35.1 percent of all New York families who received such outdoor aid (although blacks only formed approximately 9.5 percent of the population).103 Blacks received assistance disproportionately to whites; the fact that 70 percent of free black families were partially dependent indicates the enormity of the problem faced by blacks who tried to become fully autonomous.
Some free blacks and slaves104 who became dependent were housed in institutions. Nine free blacks were in institutions in New York City in 1790, twenty‑six free blacks were in the Poor House in New York City in 1800, and forty‑five free blacks were in the Almshouse, ten free blacks were in Debtor's Prison, and seventeen were in "Belvue" Hospital in 1810. In 1820 the New York Alms House contained ninety‑seven free blacks, while seventy‑six free blacks were in "Belview" Hospital; four free blacks were in the Brooklyn Poorhouse.105 Whenever possible poor authorities attempted to enforce provisions of the manumission laws which made some owners financially responsible for their dependent former slaves. Nicholas Carmer applied to the Common Council of New York City "to be exonerated from a charge standing against him in the Alms‑ house book for the maintenance of a slave directed to be liberated by his father's will, and discharged from Servitude accordingly though not in form prescribed by the Act."106 Other free blacks (who may have been ill or incarcerated rather than dependent) appeared in such institutions as hospitals, the Bridewell, County Prison, State Prison, and the Penitentiary between 1800 and 1820.107
Poor authorities administered outdoor relief (gifts of food, fuel, clothing, money) to indigent black families; some free blacks were serviced in institutions as paupers. Other free blacks who posed either temporary or long‑term support problems for overseers of the poor were placed with white or black families who were reimbursed by the town for the costs of maintaining them. Many former slaves were supported in this manner and were then finally buried by overseers of the poor when they became dependent in old age. The onerous financial burden placed on overseers of the poor by the maintenance of former slaves gave rise to legal disputes among poor authorities of neighboring towns over responsibility for free black paupers. New York State courts handled many cases of litigation between overseers of the poor of different towns and between overseers of the poor and former slaveholders or their heirs to determine accountability for the support of indigent free blacks.108
On March 27, 1794 the overseers of the poor of Oysterbay acknowledged that Cuff Cooper was legally settled in that town and that the overseers of the poor of Flushing would not be responsible for his maintenance. On December 22, 1823 Oysterbay poor authorities again reassured the poor authorities of Flushing that a free black, William Kissam, was a legal inhabitant of Oysterbay rather than of Flushing.109 On June 3, 1805 the overseers of the poor of the town of Mamaroneck certified that Margaret, a free black woman formerly the property of Benjamin Griffin, was a resident of Mamaroneck and that they would "receive her the said Margaret at any time that the Town of New Rochelle or the overseers of the poor thereof shall incline to remove her."110
Most disputes over the support of freed blacks were only resolved after extended legal controversy. In 1799 Samuel Smith, administrator of the estate of John Havens of Brookhaven, was in dispute with the trustees of the town of Brookhaven over the maintenance of a black man named Tite. The matter was to be settled by referees from the town of Southampton.111 A New Rochelle town meeting of April 2, 1816 authorized the overseers of the poor to sue the property of Philip Riche "for to Recover the expenses of Mike a blackman (deceased) said to belong to said Riche or the estate."112 Eight years later the town of New Rochelle again found itself in a conflict over the support of a free black. In 1824 the overseers of the poor of the town of Eastchester listed $22.36 in expenses "incurred in contending with the Town of New Rochelle with the Settlement of Jerry Santor a Black man."113
Several free blacks were farmed out to paid townsmen by the poor authorities of Eastchester in Westchester County and Riverhead in Suffolk County.114 Overseer of the poor accounts for Eastchester between 1778 and 1824 reveal that in addition to children boarded out at state expense under the 1799 to 1804 infant abandonment program, five free blacks were taken care of in white households at public cost. Toney was supported by the town of Eastchester from 1790 until his death in April 1793. The overseers of the poor put him "to board" with the Widow Mary Fowler in 1790, 1791, and 1792; he was placed with Bazel Hunt on April 2, 1793 for the ensuing year (he died, however, shortly thereafter). The overseers issued payments to Fowler and Hunt for boarding Toney; they also disbursed funds for sundry clothing, linen, shirts, trousers, shoes, and funeral charges for Toney. In 1796 the Widow Mary Fowler boarded another free black named Nero for the overseers of the poor.115
Johannah Jackson and her daughter Mary were under the care of the overseers of the poor of Eastchester from 1803 until 1809. They were put out with Joseph Benedict from August 31, 1803 until March 27, 1804. They were then boarded out continuously with David Roberts from April 4, 1804 through March 1809. In addition to the regular cost of boarding the two blacks, the overseers of the poor occasionally issued funds for clothing. At Johannah's death in 1809 they spent five pounds for medical care by Dr. Hunt, they paid Gilbert Vincent six shillings to dig a grave, and reimbursed John Alstyne five shillings for "1/2 gallon of Spirits for the said [Jo]hannah Jac[k]son funeral." In 1810 they gave Benjamin Morgan six shillings "for Riting an Indenture for a Black Girl named Mary" during the previous year. The town of Eastchester expended a total of 233.2.6 on Johannah and Mary over a seven‑year period.116 After Johannah's death the poor authorities bound her daughter Mary out to service so that she would no longer be a burden to the town. In addition to Toney, Nero, Johannah, and Mary, the overseers of the poor of Eastchester boarded out a black boy Harry in 1814 and 1815 with James Ward. In April 1818 they paid a black woman sixteen shillings for the care of a black child. Outdoor relief was administered to a black woman Nell and her child between 1821 and 1825; she was given cash and "sundries in aid" which totalled $99.51.117
Between 1792 and 1831 the overseers of the poor of the town of Riverhead supported seven indigent free blacks. In 1792 a black boy was placed with David Osborn and in 1800 the poor authorities paid 3.8.5 for the care of "Negro Merigo or Mongo." A free black named Tooler was chargeable to the town from April 2, 1808 until his death later that year. At a town meeting on April 5, 1808 it was voted that "the Overseers of the Poor [and] Justices of the peace commence a prosecution against the Master or Owner or the heirs of the Master or owner of Negro Tooler, for the purpose of clearing the town from maintaining him, if such a step should in their opinion be safe and expedient." On March 31, 1809 Riverhead reimbursed several townspeople for their care of Tooler during the preceding fiscal year. Elihu Sweezy, Daniel Wells, and Joshua Terry (at whose house Tooler had died) were compensated for boarding Tooler while Dr. Conklin was paid for medicines and visits.118
In 1810 the overseers of the poor of Riverhead again endeavored to relieve themselves of financial responsibility for a free black. On March 30, 1810 they listed expenses related to the care of Amy during the preceding year; the final charge was in the amount of four shillings owed to Josiah Albertson "for carrying an order of removal to move the said Amy to Southampton." Both the March 30, 1810 and March 29, 1811 reports listed a still unpaid balance of 2.16.0 due from Southampton to the town for Amy's care; the sum was paid to Riverhead by April 3, 1812. Another free black woman, Ann, had become dependent or in debt to the overseers of the poor by April 4, 1826, on which date the town of Riverhead voted that the house that Black Ann lived in should be sold by the overseers of the poor for the benefit of the town. Ann later appeared in the overseer of the poor report for April 5, 1831; now a town pauper she was boarded out with William Benjamin for the following year.119
It is unknown whether local overseers of the poor either preferred or attempted to place dependent free blacks in black households for care. The large proportion of free blacks who lived in white households and the instability of free black households between 1785 and 1827 meant that white rather than black residences were more generally available to accept paupers boarded out by town poor authorities. Some free blacks, however, were placed in black households by overseers of the poor.120 The overseers of the poor of the town of Flatlands in Kings County paid a black man, Harry Ferguson, the sum of $15 on March 29, 1830 for having boarded "Joe, a lame colored man late the property of William Kouwenhoven, deceased," for twelve weeks.121
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In contrast to the disorganization and instability experienced by many free black families, some free black households prospered. Free blacks worked in a large variety of occupations which enabled them to remain independent and to acquire modest amounts of personal and real property. Born on March 7, 1800 on the Richmond County farm of his mother's owner, John Mersereau, Nicholas De Hart was emancipated by New York State law on July 4, 1827. After freedom Nicholas moved to another area of Staten Island with his mother where he was employed in a succession of jobs over the years. He worked as a steamboat cook, a gardener, and later in the oyster business; his two adult sons found employment as stewards, cooks, and carpenters.122
At the time of his death in 1833, Dorance Hannibal, an Easthampton free black, was employed "on a whaling voyage in the Pacific ocean."123 Benjamin Perine was born a slave on Staten Island on December 2, 1796; between his emancipation on July 4, 1827 and his death on October 3, 1900 at age 103 he remained in Richmond County and labored first as a deckhand on the ferry between Staten Island and New York and then for Dr. John T. Harrison and later Captain Garret P. Wright. For the next thirty‑five years he was "a trusted servant" of Captain Christopher C. Jones who provided for Benjamin in his will.124
Some free blacks were able to acquire land or taxable personal property. According to the tax list for North Hempstead in 1788, "Tie, Pris, and SI. (blacks)" possessed real property worth 3; in 1792 "St. and Priscilla (blacks)" owned personal property valued at 150.125 An 1823 assessment roll of the town of Jamaica listed the names of settlers, their individual number of acres of land, and the value of their real and personal estates. Eight free blacks were included as propertyholders; they owned between two and four acres of land each, which real estate was valued at between $100 and $250 per holding. One free black, Samuel Johnson, had accumulated personal (rather than real) property worth $200.126 The 1828 will of John Laforge specified that Laforge was "under verbal contract to sell four acres of land to samuel Butler, a colored man at $40 per acre." The estate executors were ordered to prepare the deed.127 As an alternative to land ownership, some free blacks rented lands from towns or individual proprietors. "Black Thomas Pell" rented town lands in Eastchester from 1800 through March 1803 and from 1811 until his death prior to March 1816.128
Many free blacks may have gained a subsistence as tenant farmers on white properties before acquiring lands of their own. Maltby Goldsmith was born on August 15, 1776 to slave parents Chloe and Kedar Derby,129 who were brought to Southold, Long Island in 1780 by their owner William Albertson. Reared apart from his parents in the household of Zaccheus Goldsmith, Maltby was manumitted from slavery in 1801.130 On March 15, 1807 he married thirty‑three‑year old Dorcas, who had recently been freed by her master.131 Maltby and Dorcas began their free life together as tenants of Daniel Brown on the Dickerson farm. In a few years, however, they prospered beyond tenancy and became "the owners of one of the most sightly farms in the parish." Dorcas also gained local renown as a spinner and weaver. Maltby Goldsmith appeared as the free black head of a household which contained four members in 1810. On December 8, 1818 four children of Maltby and Dorcas (Maria, Prudence, Jasper, and Phillip) were baptized at the First Church of Southold, where Dorcas was a member for the last seventy‑two years of her life. Maltby Goldsmith's free black family was also listed as an independent household in 1820; in addition to Maltby and Dorcas it contained two children under the age of fourteen and two older children between the ages of fourteen and twenty‑six. After Maltby's death on March 30, 1838, Dorcas and one unmarried daughter continued to live in the eastern part of the "broad and well‑built dwelling" while her son Jasper lived with his wife and children in the western part.132
Some free blacks were able to achieve a large degree of economic success beyond just steady employment or ownership or rental of a few acres of land. Crank and Florah (a nurse) were married on January 2, 1764. Crank was later locally known for his manufacture of salt from boiled sea water during the American Revolution. He was listed as the independent head of a free black household in Shelter Island in 1790 and 1800. Their daughter Dianna Williams, born a slave at Orient (Oysterponds), Long Island, was freed at age twenty‑five. Diana was able to contribute $5 toward the construction of the Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island in 1815 and was a taxable home and landowner in 1818. At her death in March 1837 she left property worth between $1,000 and $1,200, as did another Long Island freed black Isabella Moore.133
Samuel Disoway of Richmond had prospered by the time of his death in 1806 to the extent that he was able to leave a salable estate, bequeath $100 to his wife Teen (or Tiney), and direct his executors to "contract with masters of such of my children [Samuel, Betty, Diana, Robert, Susan, Sarah, Tine, or Jack] as are slaves for their freedom . . . for such freedom my executors may go so far as to take the 100 out of my estate. . . ." He also ordered that "a black girl, the property of Mr. Van Duser, shall share equally with my children in the overplus of my estate."134 Disoway's primary concern at death was to ensure the freedom and well‑being of his family. Another independent black man, Jacob Jesse, had also purchased the freedom of his child. In addition to legacies bequeathed to his wife, godson, and stepson, Jacob left his daughter Hester "the bill of sale for her freedom which I obtained from Elizabeth Coventry."135 The purchase of enslaved relatives was often a top priority for blacks who were freed in advance of other family members.
Many of the free blacks who were particularly successful may have initially received gifts of land, money or training in a craft from their owners which enabled them to survive well as free men. When John Wright of Flushing wrote his will in 1768, he ordered that his "negro man Cambridge is to be free, and he is to have 50, and all my wearing apparel, and to be put into the hands of some good honest man by my executors. He is also to have the interest on 50 for life." When Cambridge wrote his own will ten years later, he was able to distribute a total of 59 between his daughter Dinah, son George, "friend Mink, now servant to Mr. John Murray," and friend Sarah Williams. Cambridge had not only managed to retain the money bequeathed to him by Wright, but had maintained a relationship with Silas Lawrence, an executor of Wright's estate (whom he appointed as his own executor).136
Elymas Reeve of Southold was also freed with legacies which increased the likelihood that his future would be self‑sufficient. Born a slave to James Reeve in 1784, Elymas was manumitted in 1820 by the will of widow Elizabeth Reeve, who bequeathed him one acre of land in Cutchogue (within the town of Southold) and $40. Prior to his emancipation Elymas had married Hagar and eventually fathered eight children; in 1820 he appeared as the free head of a household in Southold which contained five members (Elymas, Hagar, and three children under the age of fourteen). In 1825 Elymas added to his holdings by the purchase of a house with 3 1/2 acres of land in Mattituck from his free father Reuben. Elymas continued to live in this house until his death in 1870 at age eighty‑six, after which he was buried next to his wife in the old cemetery at Cutchogue.137
Pierre Toussaint, a prominent free black in New York, had been apprenticed to learn the hairdressing business by his master while still a slave. This training led to a highly successful career as a fashionable hairdresser over several decades. Born in 1766 to a slave on the Berard plantation in St. Domingo, Pierre, his sister Rosalie, his aunt Marie Boucman, and two other personal household slaves were later brought to New York by the Berard family in 1787. Shortly thereafter Pierre was trained as a hairdresser; his rapid accumulation of clients enabled him to amass savings although still a slave ("he was entitled to make the most of certain portions of his time") and to support his temporarily widowed mistress out of his earnings. Marie Boucman was freed on January 20, 1796 while Pierre Toussaint was manumitted on July 2, 1807, shortly before the death of his mistress Elizabeth Berard Nicholas.138
After their manumission Pierre and Marie remained in the same household with Gabriel Nicholas, the husband of their deceased mistress: "Toussaint continued to go to market for him and to perform many gratuitous services. In this manner they resided together for four years, in [No. 20] Reed Street. . . . Marie Boucman had also a room on the same floor of the house, and supported herself by her industry" until Pierre's care of her prior to her death in 1812.139 It was at this point that his economic success enabled Pierre to broadly dispense help to others; he aided relatives, former Berard slaves in St. Domingo, and members of the black community at large. Pierre purchased the freedom of his sister Rosalie from Gabriel Nicholas in 1811140 prior to her marriage to a free black. In 1811 he also purchased the freedom of his fifteen‑year‑old bride Juliette Noel; they "continued to live in the same house with Mr. Nicholas, having two rooms in the third story" until Nicholas left New York in 1815.
Pierre and Juliette established their own household at 105 Reed Street which by the 1830s was described as "a pleasant and commodious house." They openly extended their resources to their families; Juliette's mother lived with and was supported by them until her death. They adopted their infant niece Euphemia after Rosalie's death. Pierre sent money and gifts to former Berard slaves still in St. Domingo with whom he maintained a network of connections. Pierre also brought up a succession of New York City black boys whom he either accepted as personal indentured apprentices or sent to school to learn a useful trade. One such boy, Peter Declue, was apprenticed to Pierre in 1826 at age eleven until age twenty‑one as a hairdresser.141 As a last act of charity, Pierre left $400 in his will to be paid to the descendants of his aunt Marie Boucman, if any could be found within two years.
At his death in 1853 he was buried in the grounds of St. Peter's Church next to his wife and niece; on September 13, 1853 his real and personal estate was appraised at the large sum of $19,430.142 During his life Pierre had gained affluence; he used it to purchase the freedom of his sister and wife, care for his dependent aunt, niece, and mother‑in‑law, and accept indigent free black boys who were indentured to him by poor authorities. These acts addressed the often desperate needs of the early free black community for family help and loyalty as well as economic sustenance.
1Black children who were born free between 1799 and 1827 but who owed service to their mothers' masters until adulthood were assigned to the four household categories for all blacks (table 1) and three household categories for free blacks (table 2) as they appeared in the census along with the rest of the black population. These children were sometimes classified as slaves and sometimes as free blacks in the census. Although legally free their real status was close to slavery; their presence in white households with other slaves or free blacks may mask the real interrelations between such children and both their masters and other blacks in the holding. When such children were listed as free and lived in white households containing only free blacks the completely free blacks were in fact living with bound servants. Similar distortions of true status occurred in the other two white household types as such children were variably counted as either slave or free but enjoyed a status somewhere between slavery and freedom.
2Lendon Zate (two slaves), Mary Dessary (five slaves), Dick (one slave), Frances (five slaves) and Mars (six slaves) were heads of household in New York City in 1800. 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, pp. 690, 730, 927 (two families), 930. Charles was the head of a family composed of five slaves in Smithtown in 1800. 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR 56 (1925):12. Slaves John Claxler (one slave) and Jane Jackson (two slaves) headed households in New York City in 1810, as did Sharper (one slave) in Brookhaven. 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, pp. 9, 14a. Elias Wallin headed a single‑slave household in New York City in 1820. 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, p. 59. It is possible that these were really free black‑headed families which were misplaced in the slave columns by census takers. However, since they do appear in the slave census columns they are considered as true slave‑headed households.
3Deposition of Benjamin Smith concerning Stepney, April 24, 1817, New York Manumission Society, New York City Indentures 1809‑1829, microfilm reel no. 1, p. 91, NYHS.
4Livingston v. Ackeston, May 1826 in Catterall, ed., Judicial Cases Concerning Slavery, 4:383‑84.
5Augustus Griffin Diary, January 2, 1844 entry, vol. 2, pp. 8‑9, LIHS. Isabella, who died on January 1, 1844, was the daughter of eighty‑seven‑year old "Aunt Genny"; Genny had been brought up in the family of Jonathan Terry (Augustus Griffin's grandfather). Cade M[ore] appeared as the free black head of a household with eight members in the town of Shelter Island in the 1800 census, and as the head of a household with five members in Southold in 1810. 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR 56 (1925):271; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules.
6Ward Hunt, Registration of Slave Child Caroline, b. August 9, 1800, Register of manumissions of slaves . . ., p. 124, MCNY. It is possible that Ward Hunt freed Caroline early at age fourteen. On June 11, 1815, a Ward Hunt of Mount Pleasant freed a "female negro" named Caroline. First Minute Book of the Town of Mount Pleasant 1788‑1835, Westchester County Historical Society.
7Julian Ludlow, Registration of Slave Child Mary, b. April 1802, New York City Birth Certificates of Slaves, microfilm reel 49, p. 3, NYHS.
8See chap. 7 above on the sample of black church marriages. The marriage records normally list residential/ownership information only for the enslaved partner; the living and employment circumstances of the free partner are usually unknown.
9"Records of the United Brethren Congregation," NYGBR 39 (1908): 257.
10Freedom for both spouses did not necessarily mean that the couple would be able to establish and maintain their own domicile. Many free blacks initially continued to live in white households as servants apart from their families.
11Livingston Brockholst, Manumission of Sally, January 1, 1794; George Mantl, Manumission of Suke, May 6, 1796; John H. Kip, Manumission of Phillis Brown, March 23, 1797, Register of manumissions of slaves . . . , pp. 31, 32, 148, MCNY.
12Because of their large proportion of Dutch slaveholders, the Queens County towns of Newtown (62.1 percent) and Jamaica (56.2 percent) also had high proportions of free blacks living in white households which contained both slaves and free blacks in 1810; the next highest town in Queens County had only 16.7 percent of its free blacks resident in such households. Newtown (14.9 percent) and Jamaica (3.9 percent) in 1810 had the lowest proportion of free blacks living in free black‑headed households in the county; the next lowest town was Flushing at a much higher 49.8 percent.
13In 1790 99.9 percent of the 813 free blacks in Queens County appeared to live in black‑headed households. It is possible that census takers simply counted all free blacks as independent residents even when domiciled with whites. The very small size of the average free black household (2.7 persons) supports such an argument. See table 5 below on average free black family sizes. The early 1755 and 1781 census presence of free black households in the town of Oysterbay is not sufficient to explain the disproportionate number of free blacks who lived in independent households in 1790.
14See table 9, p. above.
15See table 8, p. above
16The average number of free blacks who lived in white households which contained only free black workers steadily rose from 1790 to 1820. Further research utilizing the 1830 through 1850 federal censuses would indicate whether the average number of resident free blacks in white households ever approached the size of the average pre‑1827 slaveholding.
171820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, Suffolk County, p. 141. This 32nd census column of the 1820 federal census is entitled "All other persons except Indians not taxed" for all other counties except Suffolk. No entries were listed in this 32nd census column for the other five southern counties of New York. The ages and sex of these indentured free blacks were not listed (as they were for slaves and free blacks). The circumstances under which the free blacks were bound out to service is unknown. These indentured blacks could have been free blacks who found it necessary to bind themselves back into service as a means of support, children who were given up by owners under the abandonment program and who were bound out by overseers of the poor until age eighteen or twenty‑one, or bound Indian servants who were mislabelled as blacks.
181820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, Suffolk County, town of Brookhaven, p.169.
19Baird, Chronicle of a Bordertown--Rye, p. 187.
20Morris, History of Staten Island, 2:46.
21Gilbert narrator,Narrative of Sojourner Truth, pp. 19, 71; Bernard, Journey Toward Freedom, pp. 69‑70, 83‑84.
22"Records of the United Brethren Congregation," NYGBR 39 (1908): 257, 261, 262, 264, 265. See the marriages of Robert Wilson to Nellie Simonson, Charles to Sarah, James Garretson to Ann Winet, Thomas Disosway to Diana Clarkson, John Freeman to Mary Prue, Joseph Bedillion to Eliza Peterson, Aaron Fardon to Hannah Jackson, and John Emmot to Maria Andee.
23Future research on free blacks who lived in white households as listed in the 1820 and 1830 federal censuses could estimate the maximum proportion of free blacks that were living with family members. Based on the age and sex of free blacks in a white household, theoretical family relationships could be projected. Adult men and women within the same age bracket would be assumed to be spouses. Adult women would be assumed to be the mothers of black children under the age of fourteen in the household. Free blacks who lived alone in white households, males and females of disparate age groups, and same‑sex adults would all be classified as either unable to live with any relatives or to be unrelated co‑workers. This methodology provides only a maximum estimate of real family relationships; many of the similarly aged free black men and women who lived together in white households were not spouses and the resident children under age fourteen were often not their biological offspring.
24See table 3, p. above on black sex ratios in 1820 in the southern six counties of New York.
25The proportion of free blacks resident in white households may have been maintained at a high level by a constant infusion of newly freed blacks into the population who lived at first in white households. The average amount of time that elapsed between manumission and the establishment of an independent home by an adult black is unknown. Further research on the proportion of free blacks that lived in white households as listed in the 1830 and 1840 federal censuses would give some indication of the time lag between manumission and full personal independence. By 1830 all adults over the age of thirty‑one (slaves born prior to 1799) had been free for at least three years; most had been free for at least ten years since 85 percent of blacks were already free in 1820. (Many of the free blacks under the age of thirty‑one, however, were either still in bound service or had only recently emerged from the years of service owed by children born to slave women between 1799 and 1827.) If the proportion of free blacks that lived in white households in 1830 and 1840 was similar to the proportion in 1820 it would reduce the proposed correlation between recent freedom and the likelihood of residence in a white household. It would indicate instead that a large 40 percent of the free black population were unable to be absorbed into the economy as totally free workers and had to remain in white households as personal domestic or farm laborers.
26Future research on the proportion of free blacks that lived in either black or white‑headed households in the 1830 and 1840 federal censuses would be necessary to ascertain the amount of time it took for the former slave community to leave white households and emerge into a self‑sustaining free black community.
27The proportion of free blacks that lived in white households was not artificially raised by the inclusion in the figures of free black children under the age of fourteen, many of whom owed service to their mothers' masters. Free children, in fact, were somewhat more likely than adults to live in free black‑headed households. Out of 16,303 blacks listed in table 2 as free in 1820, 10,904 were adults and 5,399 were children under age fourteen. This figure excludes 1,080 children who were listed as slaves. A comparison of the residences of free black children and free black adults indicates that 34.3 percent of children lived in white households and 43.1 percent of adults; 65.6 percent of children and 56.9 percent of adults lived in black‑headed households. Free children were more likely to live in free black‑headed households than adults both because they were too young to be usefully employed in white households and because the circumstances of their manumissions often dictated that they were placed in the custody of free parents who were willing and able to maintain them. Also, some of the free children had been born initially to the by now well‑established segment of the free black population which had matured to the point of independent residence.
28Among black adults aged fourteen to twenty‑six years, 9.9 percent more females were free, 3.5 percent more females were free in the twenty‑six to forty‑five age group, and 0.6 percent more females were free among blacks over age forty‑five. See pp. ‑ above on the proportion of blacks that were free by age and sex group.
29See app. 15 below for these figures and for the number of free black men and women in the southern six counties of New York.
30It is not possible to analyze changes in this pattern from 1790 to 1820 because apart from the name (and therefore sex) of the head of household, federal censuses before 1820 did not classify the black population according to gender.
31Individual attitudes of local census takers may have been the most important factor in determining whether or not a last name would be listed for a free black head of household (assuming that a surname was used by the family itself). Almost all free black heads of household enumerated in the town of Brookhaven in the 1790 census had last names. This was more likely due to the proficiency of the area census taker rather than to an unusually high incidence of last name usage among free blacks in this town.
32Out of 13,271 blacks over the age of fourteen in the southern six counties of New York, 11,335 (or 85.4 percent) were free.
33The 3,546 black children (see table 5, p. above) lived in 2,012 free black households.
34Census information only measures family size at one point in time. It includes the full spectrum of married couples in all phases of their childbearing careers. The average of 1.8 children per household encompasses a broad composite of couples, some of whom had not yet begun to produce children, young couples with growing families, couples in their mid‑forties whose families were complete (all young had been born and the oldest children had not yet left home), as well as older couples whose children had all already left the household. Therefore, the census figure of 1.8 children does not reflect eventual completed family size. It is a particularly incomplete figure due to the artificial exclusion of both child and adult numbers from the early free black family. See pp. ‑ above for a discussion of black fertility and estimated completed black family size.
35The only exceptions were 3 percent of white households in New York City in 1712‑1714 and 1.7 percent of white households in Rhode Island in 1774. There were higher proportions of single‑person households in the island colonies. Wells, Population in America Before 1776, pp. 303, 330‑31.
36Information is available for fifty‑one of the fifty‑five single‑person free black households in the 1820 census. Twenty‑five (49 percent) of the fifty‑one households consisted of a free black over the age of forty‑five. Information is available for 249 of the 272 two‑person free black households in the 1820 census. Forty‑eight (or 19.3 percent) of the 249 households consisted of a man and woman both of whom were over the age of forty‑five.
37The non‑elderly free blacks who lived in households composed of one or two persons still reflected the disrupted status of many black families. Two‑person households which consisted of spouses with missing children or of a mother with a child and no husband were often still in transition from slavery to freedom.
38Future research on the sex and age composition of free black households which appeared in the 1820 census could indicate whether or not the nuclear family form (simple or extended) was predominant and whether many households consisted rather of married pairs alone, adult same‑sex siblings, or matriarchal groups of adult women with children.
391810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Ward Five (p. 124), Ward Seven (p. 194).
40Phillis, Brooklyn, Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790, p. 96; Catherine Pean, New York City, Sixth Ward; Thomas Yeoman, New York City, Seventh Ward, 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, pp. 835, 926; Silva, A free Negro, Rye, 1800 Census, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR 57 (1926): 110; Andrew Blake (Fifth Ward), Williams (Fifth Ward), Mamela Filiat (Fifth Ward), Magdalen Berton (Sixth Ward), James Dickison (Tenth Ward), Johnston (Tenth Ward), 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, pp. 108a (Andrew Blake and Williams), 112a, 140, 184, 185a; Scipio, Suffolk County (p. 152); William Cannan, Queens County (p. 219); Jack Coffee, Queens County (p. 265), 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules; William Gait, Joseph Allen, Aaron L. Poyer (Third Ward), Charles Battis (Sixth Ward), Ann Lally (Seventh Ward), Jas. Smith (Eighth Ward), Thomas Johnson (Eighth Ward), Peter McMore (Eighth Ward), Charles Gatnan (Eighth Ward), Richard Mose[d] (Eighth Ward), Charles Raymond (Tenth Ward), 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City reel 16, pp. 44, 59, 76, 233, 306; reel 17, pp. 6, 31, 62, 63, 66, 179.
411830 Census, "Aggregate Amount of Persons. . . ." A small number of other slaves were located in Putnam, Montgomery, Tioga, and Washington counties. There is no legal explanation for the continued slave status listing for these seventeen females. All of the children had been born free and should have been classified as free even if they were fulfilling a nonresidential service obligation to their mothers' masters. The seven adult slaves, who appeared to still be "owned" by free blacks may have simply failed to realize that after 1827 they were legally free.
42The seven free black households which owned slaves were headed by John Jones (two slaves), Benjamin Walker (one slave), Sara Kip (one slave), John Scott (three slaves), Charles Thomas (four slaves), Andrew Oatfield (four slaves), and Abraham Low (one slave). Carter G. Woodson, "Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the United States in 1830," Journal of Negro History, 9, no. 1 (January 1924): 66.
43David Pell, Eastchester, Employer Recommendation for Nancy, April 27, 1816, Eastchester Historical Society, Records of the Town of Eastchester, 1665‑1835, 10:32.
44Greene, Negro in Colonial New England, p. 305.
45New York Freedom's Journal, 22 June 1827, p. 58; "Abolition of slavery in the State of New‑York," New York Freedom's Journal, 4 May 1827, pp. 30‑31.
46McManus, Negro Slavery, pp. 175‑77; Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, "Philanthropy at Bargain Prices: Notes on the Economics of Gradual Emancipation," Journal of Legal Studies, 3, no. 2 (June 1974): 392‑93.
47The proportion of blacks in the population fell in each of the southern six counties between 1790 and 1830. See table 1, p. above.
48As table 5 above shows, there were only four free black households in Richmond in 1790, three in 1800, six in 1810, and nine in 1820. The proportions of Richmond County free blacks that lived in black‑headed households in 1790, 1800, and 1810 were far lower than the proportions in other counties; by 1820, however, the proportion had become comparable to the other five southern counties (see table 2 above).
49While 77.6 percent of blacks in Brooklyn were free in 1820, only from 13.8 to 34.1 percent of blacks in the five rural towns of Kings County were free. This indicated both a higher rate of manumission among Brooklyn slaveowners and an influx of free blacks into Brooklyn from surrounding areas (which artificially inflates that town's real rate of internal manumission).
50The sharp jump between 1820 and 1830 in the proportion of Kings County blacks that lived in Brooklyn reflected the fact that fully half of the 1820 black population of the county was subsequently freed in the decade between 1820 and 1830.
51See app. 8 below.
52This explains both the loss of real numbers of blacks and the general growth stagnation which occurred in Queens, Suffolk, and Richmond counties.
53There were 4,617 adult black men over the age of ten and 6,570 adult black women over the age of ten in New York City in 1830, indicating a sex ratio of 70.3 men per 100 women. 1830 Census, "Aggregate Amount of Persons. . . ."
54Free black households were not evenly distributed throughout all streets and areas of New York City. Large groups of individual free black households often were listed one after the other on particular census pages in the 1820 census. 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules.
551820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Seventh Ward, p. 302.
56Oral interview with Helen De Hart, great, great, great granddaughter of slave Nicholas De Hart, on file at SIIAS. Genealogical, occupational and archeological research on the early free black community at Sandy Ground is being conducted by the Black Man on Staten Island Project at the SIIAS. Some of the research on Sandy Ground was published in We Too Have a Heritage vol. 1 no. 1 (October 1975); vol.2 (August 1976), SIIAS.
57Connolly, Ghetto Grows in Brooklyn, pp. 7‑8, 18; Robert J. Swan, "Weeksville Historic Research Review: The Pieces of the Puzzle," 1971 (Typewritten.); Robert J. Swan, "Weeksville: The Macroscopic Study of a Microscopic Community," 1971 (Typewritten.); Robert J. Swan, "Welcome to Weeksville: An Historic Reconstruction of the Past," 1971 (Typewritten.) All at LIHS.
58Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Box B, LIHS; Wortis, "From First Settlement to Manumission," p. 151.
59Hartell, "Slavery on Long Island," pp. 69‑70.
60Remnants of the Valley Road community at Lake Success in North Hempstead survive in 1981 (known as Lakeville at Lake Success along Community Drive between Northern Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway in the town of Manhasset, Nassau County). The five‑acre area was designated as Valley Road Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places on April 8, 1977, and includes Lakeville African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (built 1832), five houses, a cemetery, and a parish house. "Landmark Status Sought for Success," New York Times, 30 November 1975; "For Blacks a Strong Indian Mixture on Long Island," New York Times, 14 February 1971; "Out of Slavery, A Bit of Success," New York Newsday, 13 November 1975; "A 'Success' story: Valley Rd. designated historic district," Manhasset Press, 21 April 1977; Fern Cohen, "Valley Rd. restoration halted after community opposition," Manhasset Press, 21 July 1977.
61Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790, Easthampton, p. 162. John Lyon Gardiner, Receipts and Account Book (1793‑1803); Book of Colours or Mulatto Book, Easthampton Free Library, cited in Edgar McManus, "Negro Slavery in New York" (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1959), p. 268. Also see Hartell, "Slavery on Long Island," p. 69.
62Gardiner slaves had long maintained a presence in the town of Easthampton. Between 1751 and 1792 the deaths of eight servants of the Gardiner family were recorded in the Church of Easthampton. Cyrus, a servant child of A. Gardiner, was baptized on November 2, 1783 as was "Mr. Gardiners svt. man child" in May 1791. "Records of the Church of East Hampton," in Osborne, comp., Records of Easthampton, 5:516. Luce Gardiner, a free black woman, headed a household which contained three members in Easthampton in 1810. 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules. On August 1, 1790 and June 16, 1793, Sinah, Nimrod, and Ruth, the children of Bisner, "ye wench of John Gardiner" were baptized at the Presbyterian Church in Mattituck‑Aquebogue, indicating that Gardiner slaves had established contacts in other parts of Long Island. Petty, copier, Records of Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths at the Presbyterian Church in Mattituck, NYGBS; Petty, copier, Church Records of Aquebogue, L.I., NYGBS; Craven, "Parish Registers of Mattituck and Aquebogue," A History of Mattituck.
63"Records of the Church of East Hampton," in Osborne, comp., Records of Easthampton, 5.
64Journal of the Trustees of Easthampton, 2:236‑37.
65New York Freedom's Journal, 23 March 1827, p. 8; New York Rights of All, 29 May 1829. Lands were also made available to freed blacks in New York by a wealthy farmer slaveholder, Gerrit Smith; he offered 150,000 acres of land to be divided into farms for 3,000 black families. Bernard, Journey Toward Freedom, pp. 158‑59.
66Robbins, "Descendants of Edward Tre(a)dwell," p. 139.
67Historical Records ‑ North Castle/New Castle, 1:61; Scharf, History of Westchester County, 1:30; Johnson, Black Manhattan, p. 21.
68Drake, Quakers and Slavery in America, p. 80. A later report indicated that this task had been completed by 1787. Cox, Quakerism in the City of New York, p. 60.
69Baird, Chronicle of a Bordertown--Rye, p. 188.
70Will of Matthew Franklin, Flushing, August 2, 1779, Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 10:17.
71Will of Catharine Bedell, Southfield, February 23, 1829, Wills of Richmond County, 1787‑1863, on file at the Surrogate's Office [Liber E, p. 110], St. George, Staten Island, SIIAS. Also see a handwritten note on the provisions for Peter in a file at SIIAS.
72James Pugsley, Manumission of Cate and Plato, October 30, 1789, Forbes, transcriber, Records of New Rochelle, p. 373; Will of James Pugsley, New Rochelle, September 10, 1789, Daughters of the American Revolution, Old Wills of New Rochelle, pp. 15‑16; Hannah Pugsley, Registration of Slave Child Allixet Tucet, b. August 2, 1799; Hannah Pugsley, Manumission of Hannah, August 15, 1799, Forbes, transcriber, Records of New Rochelle, p. 389; Hannah Pugsley, Manumission of "young negro man slave" Johno, March 25, 1802, Tom Paine Memorial House, New Rochelle, N. Y.
731800 Census, New Rochelle, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR 58 (1927): 338; 1810 Census, New Rochelle, Manuscript Population Schedules; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New Rochelle, p. 158. The seventeen free blacks consisted of four males and four females all under the age of fourteen, two females aged fourteen to twenty‑six years, three males aged twenty‑six to forty‑five years, and two males and two females over the age of forty‑five.
74The name Pugsley survived as a black family name; a black Catharine Pugsley died in New Rochelle on June 1, 1878. Frederick Haacker, New Rochelle, New York: Deaths 1853‑1881, Copied from the New Rochelle Press Almanacs 1879‑1882 and From Account Books of Cornelius Seacord, Coffinmaker (n.p., 1955), New York Public Library.
751800 Census, Eastchester, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR 59 (1928): 40. Plato was at least age twenty‑one at the time of his manumission in 1789 (in order to qualify for overseer of the poor certification); he was age sixty or older in 1828.
76Will of Hannah Pugsley, New Rochelle, January 8, 1828, Daughters of the American Revolution, Old Wills of New Rochelle, pp. 150‑52.
77Johno adopted the surname Guion which was the name of a numerous group of white families in the town of New Rochelle.
78Thomas Dering held five blacks in both 1771 and 1776. Mallmann, Historical Papers; "Suffolk, 1776," Force, ed., American Archives, 4:1236; Estate Inventory of Thomas Dering, Shelter Island, 1765, Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Box B, folder 1, LIHS. Dering owned Cato (50), London 35), Comus (35) Judith (7.10.0), a child London (5), and Matilda; Sylvester Dering, Henry Dering, Nathaniel Gardiner, Manumission of Matilda, October 1, 1795, Shelter Island Town Records, cited in Helen Z. Wortis Collection, LIHS. Also see Mallmann, Historical Papers on Shelter Island, p. 76; Obligation due from the estate of T. Dering to Matilda, 1797, Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Box B, folder 1, LIHS; Henry P. Dering, Indenture for $75 to Matilda, June 20, 1798, Document Book no. 1, p. 29, Pennypacker Long Island Collection, Easthampton Free Library. A photocopy of this original manuscript document is located in Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Box 351 B, Matilda File, LIHS.
79Jefferson, "Records of the First Church of Southold," NYGBR 65 (1934): 156; 1800 Census, Shelter Island Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR 56 (1925): 271[Melilda]; 1810 Census, Shelter Island, Manuscript Population Schedules. She did not appear in the 1820 census for Shelter Island; "Matilda, a Free Black Woman her account Current with Henry P. Dering Credit, Commencing in the Year 1803 and Continued to the Year ," Document Book no. 1, p. 29, Pennypacker Long Island Collection, Easthampton Free Library. A photocopy of this original manuscript document is located in Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Box 351 B, folder 1, LIHS. The first debt entered in the account was on September 3, 1803 for the past five years of rent, placing her initial date of indebtedness to Dering in 1798 (the same year she borrowed $75 to build her house).
80Gilbert Osofsky, ed., Puttin' On Ole Massa: The Slave Narratives of Henry Bibb, William Wells Brown, and Solomon Northup (New York: HarperTorchbooks, 1969), pp. 228, 387.
81Several indentures have been located by which Indians bound themselves or their children to whites as apprentices or for specific periods of labor. Marietta Damean, "a free Indian woman," consented to the indenture of her daughter Sarah Baker to Capt. Peter Matthews for seven years beginning on May 5, 1699. An Indian woman Ann and her son Tom bound themselves as servants to Peter King on July 10, 1700--Ann was to serve for seven years and Tom for twenty‑one years. All children born to Ann during her period of indenture were to serve King for the term of twenty‑one years. Coll. NYHS, Burghers of New Amsterdam and Indentures of Apprenticeship, pp. 581, 586‑88. On June 10, 1700 an Indian boy Ishmael was indentured to Josiah P. Latting, Jr. of Mattinecock in Oysterbay for ten years by his brother "Dick Indian," Ishmael "having no other frend nor relation to take care of [him]" "Indian Indenture: (Copy of An Old Document Presented to the Society in the 1870's by John J. Latting, Esq.)," NYGBR 75 (1944): 28. John Tockhouse and "Cretia his squaw" bound their Indian boy Robin Tockhouse to Thomas Strong on February 20, 1802. Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1798‑1856, 2:56. On July 10, 1812 an Indian woman, Deborah James, sold the service of her son Tom to John Gilmore until March 18, 1831 (when Tom would reach age twenty‑one). Pelletreau, comp., Records of Southampton, 4:9. On March 28, 1850 the Justice of the Peace of Islip certified that a "colored boy" Henry Smith, the child of an Indian woman named Rachel Ceasar, was bound out as an apprentice to William Hawkins. Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1798‑1856, 2:432. A large number of indentures of Indian children are located in Work Projects Administration, Records of Flushing, 1:39‑47, 55, 58, 59, 62, 63, 65, 66.
82Robert J. Cottrol, The Afro‑Yankees: Providence's Black Community in the Antebellum Era, Contributions in Afro‑American and African Studies, 68 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982), pp. 48‑51, noted that free black families in Rhode Island also often apprenticed their children to white households. Cottrol found that, as in New York, large proportions of Providence's post‑emancipation free blacks lived in white households, that many of their children also lived in white residences, and that they faced a competitive scramble for the limited housing space available to blacks. The widespread apprenticeship of black children to whites after emancipation in the South (often in spite of strong parental objections) has been documented by several historians. See Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll, p. 451; Peter Kolchin, First Freedom: The Responses of Alabama's Blacks to Emancipation and Reconstruction, Contributions in American History, no. 20 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972.).
83Out of twenty‑one child indentures (excluding the two made in 1850) discussed in this section and in footnotes 81 through 87 (including five by Indian parents or guardians), twelve were made by mothers alone, two by fathers alone, six by both parents together, and one was made by an Indian brother.
84In addition to the cases listed below, see the following indentures: Martha Thomas by her father Thomas in 1810 (p. above), Rose by her father Pompey Tussel (pp. ‑ above), John Fortune's daughter Elizabeth in 1723 (p. above), Maria's Ward Mary in 1718 (p. above), and Jane Way's son Philip in 1802 (p. above). George was alternately bound to service by the overseers of the poor to Richard Corwin and by his mother to Austin Roe in 1850 (Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1798‑1856), 2:437‑38). Also see the court cases of The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Guilderland v. the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Knox (February 1826) and The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Owasco v. the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Oswegatchie (May 1826) in Catterall, ed., Judicial Cases Concerning Slavery, 4:381, 383 for two additional instances of the binding out of children by free parents. Nordstrom, "Slavery in Rockland, 1686‑1827," pp. 158‑59, also noted that free black adults bound both themselves and their children into service in Rockland County.
85Indenture of Richard Gerret to Agnes May, January 24, 1720, Coll. NYHS, Indentures of Apprentices, 1718‑1727, p. 138; Indenture of Lucretia to Charles Dollas, March 4, 1796; Indenture of girl to David Woodhull, May 4, 1796, both in Osborn Shaw, William Weeks, Archibald C. Weeks, and Reginald Weeks, transcribers, Records of the Town of Brookhaven, Book A, 1657‑1679 and 1790‑1798, Including the Dongan Patent, 1686 (New York: The Derrydale Press by order of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town, 1930), pp. 130, 134; Indenture of Rachel to Caesar Johns, 1797, Register of manumissions of slaves . . . , pp. 103‑4, MCNY; James B. Chever, Manumission of Jane States and Samson States, May 21, 1807; Indenture of Samson States to James B. Chever, May 22, 1807, Register of manumissions of slaves . . . , pp. 210, 211, MCNY; Indenture of Sam[p]son to James Stephenson, July 20, 1807, New York Manumission Society, New York City Indentures 1809‑1829, microfilm reel no. 1, p. 3, NYHS.
86Indenture of Isaac to Cephas Foster, January 19, 1807, Records of the Town of Brookhaven 1798‑1856, 2:110.
87Indenture of William to David Day, April 8, 1800; Indenture of Sonney to Capt. John Havens, April 8, 1800; Indenture of James to James Foster, March 26, 1806, Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1798‑1856, 2:30, 94. It is possible that Sary (or Sarah) Arch was a slave for all or part of the period between 1800 and 1805. Elias Pelletreau, Jr. of Southampton registered the 1803 birth of a slave child James--the compiler of the records of Southampton, William S. Pelletreau, noted that this child, James Arch, was still alive in 1876‑78. In 1805 Pelletreau manumitted a slave Sarah who may have been the mother of James and the same Sary Arch who bound a child named James out to service in 1806. There is a discrepancy, however, between the date of James's registered birth in 1803 and the age listed on his 1806 indenture agreement. Pelletreau, comp., Records of Southampton, 3:368, 370. Other evidence indicates that the household of Pomp and Sary Arch had disintegrated by 1803. On September 5, 1803 the trustees of the town of Brookhaven granted "a piece of land near the place where the dam is to be built and on which Pompes House formerly stood." Records of the Town of Brookhaven 1798‑1856, 2:71.
88A fourteenth indenture was also filed with this group, but the child was born in 1801 and may have become dependent through the abandonment program's indenture provisions. Abraham Egbert and John I. Poillon, in Morris, History of Staten Island, 2:42‑45; Work Projects Administration, Records of Flushing, 1:47‑48; Historical Records of New Castle 1791‑1850, 2:236; Apprenticeship Papers, 6250, 35.377.32; 6314, 35.377.95; 6316, 35.377.97; 6282, 35.377.63, MCNY; Indentures of Apprentices, 1792‑1794; Indentures of Apprentices, 1801‑1811; Manumission Society, New York City Indentures, 1809‑1829, p. 5, microfilm reel no. 1, NYHS.
89Indentures of Apprentices, 1792‑1794, NYHS.
90Indenture of Tom Heady to Nathaniel Conklin, January 17, 1797, Historical Records of New Castle 1791‑1850, 2:236.
91Work Projects Administration, Records of Flushing, 1: 74‑75.
92"An Act Relative to Slaves and Servants," March 31, 1817, Laws of New York State, 40th Session Chap. 137, pp. 136‑44. After March 31, 1817 owners of children born to their slave women who owed service were required to either teach them to read by age eighteen or give them a stipulated amount of schooling. Failure to comply meant forfeiture of the child's service at age eighteen--overseers had the option to bind out such children until age twenty‑one. Masters were also required to register the births of these children before their first birthdays or lose their services early, at age eighteen. Overseers of the poor were directed to bind such children out to service until age twenty‑one.
93New York City--Almshouse Commissioners--Indentures of Minor Girls Put Out, or Infants Adopted 1822‑1825, New York Public Library; Manumission Society, New York City Indentures, 1809‑1829, microfilm reel no. 1; Indentures of Apprentices, Boys, New York City, 1815‑1828; Indentures of Apprentices, Boys, 1816‑1820; Indentures of Apprentices, Boys, 1823‑1826; Indentures of Apprentices, Girls, 1816‑1822; Indentures of Apprentices, Girls, 1829‑1831; Indentures of Apprenticeships, Boys and Girls, 1805‑1891; Indentures of Apprenticeships, Boys and Girls, 1815‑1915 (38 vols.), all at NYHS.
94Indenture of Betsey James to George and Maria Wilson, November 7, 1823, New York City--Almshouse Commissioners--Indentures of Minor Girls Put Out, or Infants Adopted 1822‑1825, p. 50, Manuscript Room, New York Public Library. Also see Indenture of Francis Mead to John Lewis (barber), January 24, 1818, Indentures of Apprentices, Boys, 1816‑1820, NYHS; Indenture of Alfred Conner to Jacob Peterson (hairdresser), February 15, 1827, Indentures of Apprentices, Boys, New York City, 1815‑1828, NYHS.
95A violation of the 1788 law which prohibited slave importations and the sale of slaves into New York State secured her freedom. Case of Priscilla, April 6, 1797, p. 91, New York Manumission Society--Reports of the Standing Committee, January 26, 1797‑March 11, 1807, NYHS.
96Future research on the Annual Reports (1837‑1884), Book of Admissions (1837‑1867), and Book of Indentures (1837‑1866) of the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York City could provide much information on the post‑slavery free black family. These manuscript records are all housed at the NYHS. The Book of Indentures (approximately 1,350 cases) and Book of Admissions (approximately 950 cases) contain histories of children who were admitted to the asylum. Details are recorded on the child's name, age, parentage, health, literacy, and family situation (existence and whereabouts of relatives, etc.).
97From Cherry Street to Green Pastures--A History of the Colored Orphan Asylum at Riverdale on Hudson (New York: By the Author, 1936). In 1820 fifteen male and fourteen female free blacks under the age of fourteen appeared in the New York City Alms House. 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, Ninth Ward, p. 114.
98Colored Orphan Asylum, Twelfth Annual Report, 1848, p. 7, NYHS.
99Indenture of John Jackson to John White, December 21, 1803, Indentures of Apprentices, 1801‑1811, NYHS.
100Register of manumissions of slaves . . . , pp. 196‑98, MCNY.
101The records of the town of Easthampton are filled with indenture agreements wherein Indians bound themselves to go on whaling expeditions. Osborne, comp., Records of Easthampton, vols. 1‑3; 2:131‑34.
102Osgood, comp., Minutes of Common Council of N.Y.C., 1784‑1831, 8:204‑5. Out of 3,516 families that received outdoor aid, 1,233 were black. According to these figures, if 1,233 families constituted 70 percent of black families, then there should have been 1,761 free black households in New York City in 1814/1815. The 1810 and 1820 federal censuses, however, list 1,250 free black households (containing 4,937 members) in 1810 and 1,199 free black households (containing 6,099 members) in 1820. The Superintendent of the Almshouse either made an error in calculation or included some free blacks who lived in white households as part of the total count of black families in the city. This would account for the approximately 500 extra estimated families and for the discrepancy that 1,233 free black families constituted virtually all (rather than only 70 percent of) the free black households in the city.
103In 1810 10.2 percent of the population of New York City was black and 8.8 percent in 1820.
104Ten slaves were in institutions in 1790. Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790, New York City, North Ward, William Sloane and Jameson Cox census lines, Keepers of Institutions, p. 125. Slaveholders and their estates were liable for the support of slaves who became institutionalized. James Boorman's slave was discharged from New York Hospital as incurable. Boorman requested "that she might be accommodated in the receptacle for Idiots and lunatics belonging to the Alms House Establishment at Bellevue for which he would pay a suitable compensation." Meeting of Common Council of New York City, September 9, 1816, in Osgood, comp., Minutes of Common Council of N.Y.C.,1784‑1831, 8:629.
105Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790, New York City, North Ward, Samuel Dodge census line (listed as the Keeper of the Poor House in the 1800 census); William Sloane census line (the presence of eighty whites, four free blacks, and four slaves indicated that this was also an institution), p. 125; 1800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Sixth Ward, Samuel Dodge, Keeper of the Poor House, p. 109; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Sixth Ward, Almshouse, p. 135a; Debtor's Prison, pp. 134a‑35a; Ninth Ward, Belvue Hospital, p. 235a. There were fourteen free blacks in the Debtor's Prison in 1810, but four were there as part of white households; ten of the fourteen free blacks were placed in debtor's prison on their own accounts. Five slaves also appeared in debtor's prison in 1810; four were held by four white families and one was owned by a free black head of household. 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Ninth Ward, Alms House, p. 114; Seventh Ward, Belview Hospital, p. 308; Brooklyn, Brooklyn Poorhouse, p. 163.
106Carmer's petition was initially granted but then finally rejected at a December 3, 1802 meeting of the Council. Meeting of Common Council of New York City, November 29, 1802, in Osgood, comp., Minutes of Common Council of N.Y.C., 1784‑1831, 3:154, 156.
1071800 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Sixth Ward, William Allison, head of hospital (ten free blacks, three slaves), p. 98; Thomas Hazard, Keeper of Bridewell (twenty‑six free blacks, seventeen slaves), p. 108; Seventh Ward, John Pray, Keeper State Prison (thirty‑five free blacks, eleven slaves), p. 149a; 1810 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Fifth Ward, Hospital (twenty‑six free blacks: twenty as hospital patients and six in the family of hospital director Noah Wetmore), p. 99; Sixth Ward, County Prison (204 free blacks), pp. 134a‑35a; Thomas Hazard, keeper of the Bridewell (one free black, three slaves), p. 135 (A note on p. 160a of the 1810 manuscript census indicates that "all the prisoners in the Bridewell and County Prison are in the column of all other free persons than white." It is therefore likely that the figure of 204 persons in the Bridewell and County Prison [p.135] includes both whites and free blacks. Since official census totals count the 204 persons as free blacks, they are considered as blacks here.); Eighth Ward, State Prison (eighty‑one free blacks, ten slaves), p. 230; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, New York City, Fifth Ward, New York Hospital (thirty free blacks), p. 170; Ninth Ward, State Prison (117 free blacks), p. 110; Penitentiary (131 free blacks), p. 114. According to a July 27, 1818 report presented by the Mayor of New York to the city council, forty‑two blacks were confined in the Bridewell. Osgood, comp., Minutes of Common Council of N.Y.C., 1784‑1831, 9:741.
108See the cases (all discussed in earlier chapters) of The Overseers of the Poor of the City of Hudson v. the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Taghkanac, May 1816; The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Guilderland v. the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Knox, February 1826; The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Owasco v. the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Oswegatchie, May 1826; Warren et al v. Brooks, May 1827, all in Catterall, ed., Judicial Cases Concerning Slavery, 4:370, 381‑82, 383, 385. Hopkins and Mudge, Executors of Hopkins, against Fleet and Young, Overseers of the Poor, August 1812; The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Marbletown against the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Kingston, May 1822, both cases in Johnson, ed., Reports of Cases in Supreme Court of Judicature, 9:225‑27; 20:1‑3. The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Gravesend v. the Overseers of the Poor of Brooklyn, [no date] Gravesend Paper No. 128 from Comptroller's Office, Gravesend Town Records 1664‑1837, Miscellaneous, pp. 201‑3, St. Francis.
109Work Projects Administration, Records of Flushing, 1:30, 92.
110Overseers of the Poor of "Momaronecke," Certification of Residence of Margaret, June 3, 1805, Tom Paine Memorial House, New Rochelle, N. Y.
111Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1798‑1856, 2:17.
112Forbes, transcriber, Records of New Rochelle, p. 414.
113Eastchester Historical Society, Records of the Town of Eastchester, 1665‑1835, vol. 6: Overseers of the Poor 1778‑1824, p. 142.
114Also see Supervisor's Book, County of Richmond, New York, 1806‑1823, 2 vols., NYHS, for overseer records of Richmond County. Several whites were paid either to board blacks or to deliver blacks to court trials.
115Eastchester Historical Society, Records of the Town of Eastchester, 1665‑1835, vol. 6: Overseers of the Poor 1778‑1824, pp. 3‑5, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26. Nero was a superannuated black who had been freed by New York State after the Revolution as the confiscated property of a loyalist slaveholder.
116Eastchester Historical Society, Records of the Town of Eastchester, 1665‑1835, vol. 6: Overseers of the Poor 1778‑1824, pp. 78‑108.
117Ibid., pp. 120, 124, 130, 136, 138, 140, 142, 144. Published overseer of the poor records for Eastchester stop in the year 1825; it is possible that Nell continued to be aided by the town beyond 1825.
118Downs, ed., Riverhead Town Records, pp. 5, 34, 59‑63.
119Ibid., pp. 65, 67, 69, 71, 319, 328. Two other blacks, Old Rose and Sesor, discussed in chap. 9, were dependent on the town of Riverhead in old age. The town of Riverhead also provided a black woman Clarrisa with annual temporary outdoor relief from 1851 through 1862, interspersed with several episodes of residence in the poor house (where she died in 1863). Downs, ed., Riverhead Town Records, pp. 161‑62, 167, 171‑72, 179, 182‑83, 198, 202‑3, 210, 231, 233‑34.
120See the case of Black Charles, p. above.
121Harry Ferguson had been manumitted in 1821. On June 7, 1819 Nicholas Schenck of Flatlands promised his slave Harry Ferguson that if he served faithfully in his "usual occupation" of farmer for two years and paid Schenck $50, he would then be freed. Schenck Family Papers, NYHS. The overseers of the poor of Flatlands initially contracted with Harry Ferguson to accept Joe as a boarder at $1.25 per week on January 11, 1830. On March 29, 1830 they also paid Peter W. Radcliff the sum of $10 "for advice respecting the support of lame Joe." "Poor Account of the Town of Flatlands, April 1, 1824‑March 29, 1830," Vital Statistics (Typewritten.), LIHS. Although the document title reads 1824 to 1830, it covers the years 1807 to 1831.
122Oral interview with Helen De Hart, great, great, great granddaughter of slave Nicholas De Hart, on file at SIIAS. Nicholas De Hart was listed as a member of St. Andrew's Protestant Episcopal Church in the town of Northfield in Richmond County in 1855. Vosburgh, ed., Records of St. Andrew's Church at Richmond, vols. 2 and 3.
123Dorance Hannibal, Easthampton, June 8, 1833 in Elizabeth Van Buren, copier, Intestate Records of Suffolk County Recorded at Riverhead, N.Y., 1931 (Typewritten.), Liber F, p. 9, NYGBS.
124Morris, History of Staten Island, 2:47‑48; Board of Education, "The Black Man on Staten Island," pp. 84‑85. Morris's information is based on an oral interview with Benjamin Perine in 1900.
125Henry Onderdonk, copier, Tax Lists of Hempstead, L. I. for 1784, 1788, 1792, 1797 (Brooklyn, N. Y.: n.p., 1940). Typed from a manuscript at the LIHS.
126"Jamaica, 1823," NYGBS.
127Will of John Laforge, Westfield, Richmond County, March 20, 1828, Wills of Richmond County, 1787‑1863 [Liber C, p. 1084], on file at the Surrogate's Office, St. George, Staten Island, SIIAS.
128Eastchester Historical Society, Records of the Town of Eastchester, 1665‑1835, vol. 6: Overseers of the Poor 1778‑1824, pp. 62, 68, 72, 73, 115, 117, 119, 121, 125.
129Kedar and his first wife Chloe had three children before her death in 1781: Chloe, Bloom, and Maltby. Kedar and his second wife Peg then produced fourteen children between 1783 and 1805. Only one of the seventeen children, John, died during infancy. He was probably the "negro (infant child of Keder)" who died on December 6, 1805. Craven, "Parish Registers of Mattituck and Aquebogue," A History of Mattituck, p. 354. Several of Kedar and Peg's children appear in local church records. Lymas, Catharine, and Eunice were baptized on September 16, 1800. Jefferson, "Records of the First Church of Southold," NYGBR 65 (1934): 263. Catharine, "a young woman the property of William Albertson" was a church member in 1805 and 1807, as was Peter in 1817; Titus died in 1808 (at age twenty‑five). Van Buren, comp., Records of the First Church in Southold, NYGBS. Titus's death is also listed on May 16, 1808 in Robbins, "The Salmon Records," NYGBR 48 (1917): 349. Some of Kedar's offspring spent their childhoods as slaves or bound‑to‑service workers on Albertson's farm while others were distributed among several different white households in the area, to whom they must have been sold by Albertson. Upon his death on September 19, 1819 at age eighty, "Keder" was listed in the church record as "a servant man [slave] of Joseph C. Albertson." Van Buren, comp., Records of the First Church in Southold, NYGBS. He was buried with all of his family in the Old Southold cemetery. His wife Peg died in 1820; Case is probably in error in his statement that she was eighty years of age. Since Kedar and Peg produced children from 1783 to 1805, she would have been between age forty‑three and sixty‑five during this childbearing period. It is likely that she was far younger than age eighty in 1820. See J. Wickham Case, "Kedar and His Family," January 27, 1879, Folder F271, Southold Library Collection, Southold Free Library, Southold, N. Y.
130According to J. Wickham Case, Kedar and Chloe were brought to Southold as Albertson slaves in 1780 with only one daughter; Maltby was born later. However, since Chloe died in 1781 it is likely that Maltby was in fact born in 1776 prior to his parents' period of slavery to Albertson. If Kedar and Chloe were Goldsmith slaves before 1780, Maltby would have been born as the property of Zaccheus Goldsmith rather than being sold to Goldsmith in his youth as suggested by both Case and Whitaker. Although Whitaker reports that Maltby adopted the surname Freeman after his manumission, census records indicate that he used the name of his last (and perhaps original) owner Goldsmith rather than either Freeman, his father's surname Derby, or the surname of his father's owner Albertson. Rev. Epher Whitaker, Funeral sermon for Dorcas, printed in The Christian at Work, 6 March 1879, Folder F271, Southold Library Collection, Southold Free Library, Southold, N. Y. A photocopy of this article is in Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Box 351B, file on Dorcas, LIHS.
131Dorcas, the daughter of Jedediah Benjamin, was born in March 1774 in Southold as a slave to James Horton. At Horton's death, she was bequeathed to his son, who freed her at his death in 1807. Whitaker, Funeral sermon for Dorcas; Case, "Kedar and His Family."
132Whitaker, Funeral sermon for Dorcas; 1810 Census, Southold, Manuscript Population Schedules; Jefferson, "Records of the First Church of Southold," NYGBR 66 (1935): 56; 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, Southold, p. 180. Dorcas died in March 1871 at age ninety‑seven. Whitaker, Funeral Sermon for Dorcas. According to a note made by Helen Wortis, Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Box 351 B, file on Dorcas, LIHS, Maltby and Dorcas's house was still standing (but was boarded up) in 1973.
133See n.5 above on Isabella Moore. Information on Dianna Williams, Crank, and Florah is in Augustus Griffin Diary, January 3, 1844, vol. 2, pp. 10‑11, LIHS; Marriage of "Crank and Florah, Negroes," Jefferson, "Records of the First Church of Southold," NYGBR 64 (1933): 225; Bureau of Census, Heads of Families, 1790, p. 165; 1800 Census, Shelter Island, Printed Population Schedules, NYGBR 56 (1925): 271; Wortis, "From First Settlement to Manumission," pp. 151, 153; Mallmann, Historical Papers on Shelter Island, pp. 90‑91 (Diana R. Williams was erroneously listed as white in the 1815 church contribution list.) Although no record of the union exists, it is likely that Dianna married Thomas R. Williams, who also contributed $5 toward the building of the church and who appeared in the 1810 federal census for Shelter Island as the free black head of a household which contained three members. 1810 Census, Shelter Island, Manuscript Population Schedules. In the 1815 church contribution list, however, Thomas was listed as a resident of New York City. Augustus Griffin described Dianna's spouse in his diary: "Her husband, Williams, was a more than common, well behaved coloured man. Knew his place, with marked precision, and at all times moved in his sphere, so as to unite the goodwill of all those with whom his b[uis]ness called him to act. He died some years before his wife, Dianna." His early death (Dianna Williams was listed as a widow in the Assessment Bill of 1818 for Suffolk County) accounts for the fact that in 1820 Dianna Williams appeared on her own as the free black head of a Shelter Island household which contained three members (two children under age fourteen and one woman aged between twenty‑six and forty‑five years [Dianna]). 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, Shelter Island, p. 169. She was also the head of a free black household in Shelter Island in 1830. Also see Helen Wortis, "Griffin's Unpublished Journals," Long Island Forum, 37, no. 9 (September 1974): 165, 169.
134Will of Samuel Discway, Richmond County, January 10, 1806, Wills of Richmond County, 1787‑1863 [Liber A, p. 327], on file at the Surrogate's Office, St. George, Staten Island, SIIAS.
135Will of Jacob Jesse, New York City, February 8, 1794, Original Wills, New York County, Surrogate's Records, microfilm reel 1787‑1799, vol. 41, p. 304, NYGBS. This will is also abstracted in Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 14:259. The original version identifies William Allen as Jacob's godson rather than grandson and also includes a codicil. Jacob's estate was probably modest--the only property mentioned in his will was a debt owed to him by another black man, a silver watch, clothing, and the unspecified "residue of estate" reserved for his wife.
136Will of John Wright, Flushing, March 8, 1768, proved April 15, 1768, Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 7:147‑48; Will of Cambridge, New York City, December 16, 1778, proved October 29, 1785, Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 13: 237. As required by law, Wright's presumed estate executors Thomas Thorne and Silas Lawrence posted a 200 bond on September 19, 1769 with the Court of Assize of Queens County to guarantee that the manumitted Cambridge would not become a public charge. Henry Onderdonk, Jr., "Notes on the History of Queens County, Part I," Journal of Long Island History, 7, no. 1 (1967): 73. Although Wright's 1768 will did not list either Thorne or Lawrence as estate executors, they stepped in to perform this administrative role regarding Cambridge's bond. It is possible that Thorne and Lawrence were local Quakers unconnected to Wright who intervened to guarantee that Cambridge would receive his promised freedom if Wright's executors had failed to post the necessary bond.
137Will of Elizabeth Reeve, Cutchogue, June 25, 1812, proved March 22, 1820, Van Buren, comp., Abstracts of Wills Recorded at Riverhead, Liber D, p. 20. Reeve bequeathed "to negroes Lumis [Elymas] and Jenny, one acre of land and $40 with their freedom." Although the will was written in 1812, Elymas was not freed until Reeve's death in 1820. Elymas's father Reuben ("the lawyer") may have been a long‑time slave of the Reeve family prior to his manumission. On August 15, 1762 Reuben, a negro servant of Deacon [Thomas?] Reeve, was baptized at the Presbyterian Church in Mattituck. Petty, copier, Records of Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths at the Presbyterian Church in Mattituck, NYGBS. Mary Reeve[s] of Southold (widow of Thomas) left her "negro man named Reuben" to her son Ebenezer Reeve in her 1782 will (Coll. NYHS, Abstracts of Wills, 10:278). See 1820 Census, Manuscript Population Schedules, Southold, p. 178 [Limas Reve]; Craven, A History of Mattituck, pp. 82, 206‑9; Obituary of Lymas, Suffolk Weekly Times, 18 April 1870, Folder F271, Southold Library Collection, Southold Free Library, Southold, N. Y.
138Lee, Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, pp. 19, 31‑32, 34‑36, 45, 47‑48, 53‑55, 80, 82, 99, 101, 104, appendix; Ottley and Weatherby, eds., The Negro in New York, pp. 66‑67; Elizabeth Berard, Manumission of Marie Boucman, January 20, 1796, registered July 12, 1797 with the Consulate General of France in New York; Elizabeth Berard, Manumission of Pierre Toussaint, July 2, 1807, registered July 14, 1807 with the Consulate General of France in New York (Document no. 633). On July 14, 1807, Elizabeth Berard filed another document with the French Consulate in New York which freed Adele to the care of her mother Marie Boucman. Pierre Toussaint Papers, Folder 1793/1796 and Folder 1, Manuscript Room, New York Public Library. See chap. 12, n. 130 above on Pierre Toussaint's manumission.
139Included in the Pierre Toussaint Papers, Manuscript Room, New York Public Library, is a bill for $15 for the burial of Marie Boucman on August 30, 1812.
140Gabriel Nicholas, Manumission of Rosalie [Chone], May 21, 1811 (age twenty‑five), registered with Consulate General of France in New York, Pierre Toussaint Papers, Folder 1, Manuscript Room, New York Public Library.
141Indenture of Peter Declue to Peter Tousant [Pierre Toussaint] New York City, August 18, 1826, Indentures of Apprentices, Boys, New York City, 1815‑1828, NYHS.
142Receipt, September 13, 1853, Appraisal of estate of Pierre Toussaint, Pierre Toussaint Papers, Box 4, File entitled Undated Correspondence, Manuscript Room, New York Public Library.