The African Americans

Search for Truth and Knowledge

By Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Jr.

Part Fifteen: Earliest Protests and Petitions for Freedom

First Generation in New Amsterdam

The African American population in New York traces it roots in the New World to the arrival of eleven Africa Captives who arrived in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1626. They were a welcomed addition to the struggling settlement. They became the seed that today has grown into an African American Community in New York of almost two million people. From this infamous beginning of forced migration and forced labor, waves of immigrants of African background have come to New York to build a future for themselves and their people. Their relation to America from the very beginning has been unique and distinctive.

In 1623 a group of wealthy merchants in Holland organized the Dutch West Indian Company and sent thirty families with a shipload of one hundred and three horses and cattle to colonize New Amsterdam which was at the time a trading post on the Hudson River. In 1626 the colony was raised to the status of a province with a director-general sent to rule from Holland. These early European settlers came from various ethnic groups including the Dutch, the French Huguenot, the Belgian Walloon, the English and the Jews. From the beginning it was clear that no matter how difficult European migration had been, it could hardly compare to the hardship and horrors of African Slavery.

The captive Africans who arrived in 1612 were sorely needed to stabilize the struggling settlement. They became laborers and at the end of the contract labor term, they would obtain their freedom and land to start a new life. Each "patron" on "lord" who imported fifty adult white settlers to the New Netherlands colony received enormous land grants. Some of these land grants became the foundation of the great fortunes of later American families. Like the English colony in Virginia, New Netherlands was founded on imported poor white indentured labor and labor grants to rich royal or merchant families. In both colonies a third ingredient was needed to insure the success of the settlements. This ingredient was the African factor.

Because of the shortage of white indentured labor, African labor was imported and used to build both the English colony in Virginia and the Dutch colony along the Hudson River. In both colonies, the imported African immigrants were not content to remain semi-slave laborers. They wanted their freedom like the white indentured laborers, who worked with them and obtained freedom and land at the end of the contract.

In the Winter of 1644, the undying desire to be free led the African indentured servants to petition the Dutch director and council for their freedom. Eighteen years after the arrival for the first Africans in 1626 to New Amsterdam, eleven of them presented an historic petition for freedom. Within a short time, the Dutch authorities responded positively by passing an act of freedom or manumission in February 1644 freeing eleven Africans and their wives because of their "long and faithful services."

They were given freedom and land to support themselves but there were strings attached. There were restrictions on their freedom which did not exist for the whites. They had to pay an extra annual tribute of tax. If they failed their freedom was taken away.

The land given these freed Africans to start their family homesteads and farms was located outside the protective wall of the colony in swamping area that eventually became Greenwich Village.

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