Historic Black Kingsbridge 1698-1850 – A Community Revealed in Documents

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  • #796

    ndembowski
    Keymaster

    I have a new article up on the “Articles” page: “Historic Black Kingsbridge 1698-1850 – A Community Revealed in Documents

    If you’ve read some of my other forum posts, you’ve probably seen that I have written in dribs and drabs about the Black people that lived in the neighborhood in the colonial period.  I’ve been drawn to the topic for a number of reasons.  One is that it has not been written about before (or ever really studied at all) in the hyper-local sense.  Another reason is that I was truly surprised about what I learned–that there was a sizable Black community for about 150 years of the early history of the neighborhood.  And not only were they here, but they most likely had a role in building some of our oldest landmarks: the Van Cortlandt House, the Albany Post Road, Van Cortlandt Lake, and even the King’s Bridge itself.  Lastly, what truly compelled me to learn about this community was an interest in the people themselves.  The extraordinary circumstances of their lives and the fragmentary details of their stories boggles the mind and challenges the imagination.  But with enough imagination, you can begin to picture people like Piero, the enslaved miller who worked for the Van Cortlandts standing on the banks of Van Cortlandt Lake.  One thing that is frustrating is how limited the information is.  The documents, written from the colonists’ perspective, do not paint a picture of who these people were as individuals but rather focus on their contributions to the bottom line of people like the Van Cortlandts.  I am hoping that subject matter experts (which I am not) can look at this information and piece together what these peoples’ lives must have been like.

    Plus there is the urgent matter of the African burial ground in Van Cortlandt Park.  It is imperative that the entire burial ground be studied by archeologists, in my opinion, before part of it gets paved over in 2019 (as is currently planned).

    #832

    ndembowski
    Keymaster

    There is an article in this week’s Riverdale Press about the African burial ground in Van Cortlandt Park and the impending paving of the Putnam Trail.

    The area will be studied using ground penetrating radar and I am very curious as to what the findings are.  My hunch is that there probably are not burials directly under the trail but it is impossible to know unless the area is studied thoroughly.  I think there is a strong possibility that burial sites could be discovered immediately to the west of the trail.

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