Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in New York City, 1624-1783

Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in New York City, 1624-1783

Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in New York City, 1624-1783

Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in New York City, 1624-1783

Synopsis

Race first emerged as an important ingredient of New York City's melting pot when it was known as New Amsterdam and was a fledgling colonial outpost on the North American frontier. Thelma Wills Foote details the arrival of the first immigrants, including African slaves, and traces encountersbetween the town's inhabitants of African, European, and Native American descent, showing how racial domination became key to the building of the settler colony at the tip of Manhattan Island. During the colonial era, the art of governing the city's diverse and factious population, Foote reveals,involved the subordination of confessional, linguistic, and social antagonisms to binary racial difference. Foote investigates everyday formations of race in slaveowning households, on the colonial city's streets, at its docks, taverns, and marketplaces, and in the adjacent farming districts. Eventhough the northern colonial port town afforded a space for black resistance, that setting did not, Foote argues, effectively undermine the city's institution of black slavery. This history of New York City demonstrates that the process of racial formation and the mechanisms of racial domination were central to the northern colonial experience and to the founding of the United States.

Excerpt

Present-day New York City is one of several command posts of the global economy, a vital relay point in the current capitalist world system in which digitalized telecommunications technologies enable the geographic dispersal of economic activity and, increasingly, the disarticulation of finance from material production. Although today’s global economy has no fixed nucleus, globalization has given rise to relatively stable clusters of concentration, agglomeration, and integration that convene in the central business districts of a few cities—for example, London, Tokyo, and New York City. Despite the dramatic structural shifts of the late twentieth century, much of New York City’s business district and the headquarters of major transnational firms are still located in lower Manhattan and thus stand, quite literally, on the multilayered foundation of the city’s colonial past and sedimented legacy of social and racial inequality. With the exception of a few historic landmarks, the visible traces of the city’s colonial history of violent conquest, appropriation of Native American lands, and black slavery were buried beneath the city’s infrastructure during the rapid conurbation and construction booms of the Industrial Revolution and subsequent economic transformations. Of course, an abundance of wellpreserved written records document New York City’s early sociocultural development. But on the whole, the dominant U.S. liberal nationalist historiography slights the city’s colonial entailments.

A contribution to the fields of colonial studies, urban studies, immigration history, and historical studies on race and racism, this book excavates New York City’s colonial past. Specifically, this study offers a historical analysis of the project of colony building on Manhattan Island from 1624 to 1783 and, in doing so . . .

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