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Slavery In New York: College Compiles First-Ever Index of Enslaved Africans, Slave Owners

New York Slavery Index

This document detailing the birth registration of a slave in 1803 is among the thousands of other records featured in the New York Slavery Index. (Image courtesy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice)

Access to New York’s first-ever index of enslaved Blacks and their owners is now just a few clicks away, thanks to a searchable database compiled by professors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The index, which gathered close to 35,000 documents dating back to 1525, was launched to provide a deeper understanding of slavery in New York, according to the New York Post. Professors Ned Benton and Judy-Lynne Peters developed the index with the help of a team of graduate students, noting that data pertaining to enslaved New Yorkers have been largely difficult to access. So, they did something about it.

“…This vast, public database will serve as an important research tool that will support information-based scholarship on slavery in New York and across the nation,” John Jay College president Karol V. Mason said in a statement.

“The launch of this index marks a significant contribution to understanding and remembering the country’s history of slavery and advances the College’s mission of educating for justice,” she added.

The new database contains everything from birth certificates and slave transactions to newspaper clippings and census records, a press release stated. In addition, users will have access to records on New York state senators who owned slaves in the early 1800’s, info on nearly 200 Underground Railroad “fugitives” who fled to New York after escaping slavery in the South and 550 newspaper ads that sought the capture of enslaved Blacks.

The website is currently free and open to the public. It also includes instructions on how to effectively search the database.

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