A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn

A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn

A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn

A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn


In this important social history of one of the nation's oldest urban places, Craig Steven Wilder contends that power relations are the starting point for understanding Brooklyn's turbulent racial dynamics. Wilder unearths an extraordinary spectrum of evidence to illustrate the manipulation of resources that kept black Brooklynites in subordinate positions: from letters and diaries to family papers of Kings County's slaveholders, from records of black-owned businesses to the public archives of the Home Owners Loan Corporation.

Wilder illustrates his points through a variety of cases, including the rise of Kings County's colonial elite, banking interests, industrialization and slavery, race-based distribution of federal money in jobs, and mortgage loans during and after the Depression.

He explores the evolution of the Brooklyn ghetto, tracing how housing segregation corralled African Americans in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Throughout, he uses Brooklyn as a lens through which to view larger issues on a national level.

One of the few recent attempts to provide a comprehensive history of race relations in an American city, this book is a major contribution to urban history and the history of race and class in America.


Run away from Barnet Van Deventer, of Flat-Bush, on Long-Island, in Kings County, a Negroe Man named Handrick, alias Hank, of middle stature, had on When he Went away a Linning striped, Jacket, a Pair of Humespun Breeches, a Blewish Pair of Stockings, and an old Pair of Shoes, a good Felt Hat: He speaks good English and Dutch, and tells People he is a free Negro. Whosoever takes up said Negro and brings him to his said Master, or secures him so that he may be had again, shall have 30 Shillings Reward, and all Reasonable charges paid by me, Barnet Van Deventer

The New York Evening Post, September 29, 1746

Wanted to Purchase, TWOhealthy black men, who can be recommended for honesty, industry and sobriety[;] aged from eighteen to twenty-four.

Apply to Francis Titus.

Williamsburgh, Jan 11.

The Long Island Star, January 19, 1814

Brooklyn's Dutch and English families preferred to view African slavery as tangential to their history in spite of the voluminous evidence of their reliance upon bondage. Through most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries descendants of the old settler families published histories in which slavery was ignored, cast as anomalous, or romanticized, each work containing an inner friction resulting from the oxymoron,gentle slavery.

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