The New York Times and its 1619 Project has brought forward the centrality of Black Americans to United States history to many of its readers and beyond. The core thesis of the 1619 Project:
“aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of [The United States’] national narrative.”
But what about the centrality of Black Americans in the history of Harlem?
The founding document that established Harlem in 1658 included a reference to enslaved Africans (see the 5th item, below).
Ordinance for establishing a new village at the end of Manhattan Island (Harlem)
The director general and council of New Netherland hereby give notice, that for the further promotion of agriculture, for the security of this island and the cattle pasturing thereon, as well as for the greater recreation and amusement of this city of Amsterdam, in New Netherland, they have resolved to form a new village or settlement at the end of the island, and near the lands of Jochem Pietersen, deceased, and those which adjoin thereto. In order that the lovers of agriculture may be encouraged thereto, the aforesaid proposed new village is favored by the director general and council with the following privileges:
First, each of the inhabitants thereof shall receive by lot, in full ownership 18, 20 to 24 morgens of arable land, 6 to 8 morgens of marshland, and be exempt from tenths for 15 years commencing next May, on condition that he pay within the course of three years, in installments, eight guilders for each morgen of tillage land for the behoof of the interested, or their creditors, who are now or formerly were driven from the aforesaid lands, and have suffered great loss thereon.
Secondly, in order to prevent similar damage from calamities or expulsions, the director general and council promise the inhabitants of the aforesaid village to protect and maintain them with all their power, and when notified and required, to assist them with 12 to 15 soldiers on the monthly pay of the company, the village providing quarters and rations; this whenever the inhabitants may petition for it.
Thirdly, when the aforesaid village has 20 to 25 families, the director general and council will favor it with an inferior court of justice; and, for that purpose, a double number is to be nominated out of the most discreet and proper persons, for the first time by the inhabitants and afterward by the magistrates thereof, and presented annually to the director general and council, to elect a single number therefrom.
Fourthly, the director general and council promise to employ all possible means that the inhabitants of the aforesaid village, when it has the above-mentioned number of families, will be accommodated with a good, pious orthodox minister, toward whose maintenance the director general and council promise to pay half the salary; the other half to be supplied by the inhabitants in the best and easiest manner, with the advice of the magistrates of the aforesaid village, at the most convenient time.
Fifthly, the director general and council will assist the inhabitants of the aforesaid village, whenever it will best suit their convenience, to construct, with company’s Negroes, a good wagon road from this place to the village aforesaid, so that people can travel to and from it on horseback and with a wagon.
Sixthly, in order that the advancement of the aforesaid village may be the sooner and better promoted, the director general and council have resolved and determined not to establish, or allow to be established, any new villages or settlements before and until the aforesaid village be brought into existence; certainly not until the aforesaid number of inhabitants is completed.
Seventhly, for the better and greater promotion of neighborly correspondence with the English of the north, the director general and council will at a more convenient time, authorize a ferry and suitable scow near the aforesaid village, in order to convey cattle and horses, and favor the aforesaid village with a cattle and horse market.
Eighthly, whoever are inclined to settle themselves, or to have servants set up some farms there, shall be bound to enter their names at once or within a short time at the office of the secretary of the director general and council, and to begin immediately with others to place on the land one able-bodied person provided with proper arms, or in default thereof to be deprived of his right.
Thus done at the session of the director general and council held at Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 4th of March 1658.