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Wenyuan Ma

History 7A
Professor Felix
Online Exhibit
New York, one of the most famous cities in America. I just traveled there at
the beginning of this summer break. It is really easy to see the prosperity in New
York today. For me, it is hard to image this city was the capital of American slavery
for more than two centuries. From all the readings in these weeks, I can image how
much tortures the slaves had suffered. This website fully shows me the history of
American slavery in New York from 1600s to 1827 when the slavery abolished in this
The first part I want to mention is a picture in gallery 1 and the data shown
after it. There is a ship on this picture and all the space in the ship is filled with men.
When I saw this picture at the first time, I didnt realize all the little line was a man.
When I read all the slides in gallery 1, I finally realized it. It is uncountable to know
how many men were on this ship shown in the picture. This reminded me a
document, The Middle Passage that we read in Week 3. The narrator described in
that document that they, as slaves, didnt have enough space to live and even
didnt have enough fresh air to breath. At that time, I could not image that. But
when I see this picture, I can exactly feel the bad situation they were in. Also, I was
shocked by the data shown after the picture. Twelve million Africans were captured
and enslaved in the Americas. This data means a lot to me. There are around 3.8
million people in Los Angeles. Twelve million people is same scale as four times of
Los Angeles population. How large the number was. And all of these Africans were
American slaves, lost their liberty and freedom and forced to work for their masters.
This really let me know how cruel the slavery was.
Second part is a picture of a document, which titled as Granting halffreedom to New Amsterdams first blacks in the gallery 2. Behind this document,
there was a story that eleven Africans asked to give back their own freedom in
1644. At that time, most slaves were controlled by their masters. These eleven
Africans were brave enough to ask for their freedom and they eventually succeeded
and were freed. They and their wives got lands to farm as well. But they were not
totally free. They were asked to pay tax every year and they had to go back to work
if they were needed. However, their children still had to be slaves. This is called
half-freedom in the gallery. From this story, I saw the hope of all the slaves at that
time. First, I was shocked because of these slaves courage. They didnt accept their
destiny as other slaves at that time. They tried to ask for their freedom. I believe
this was the only way to help themselves to get rid of slavery at the end. Although
this time, they didnt get fully freedom, they already had part of it. It was a big
progress on abolishment of slavery in New York. Second, the colonys Director

General agreed to give them part of freedom. This also shows me that the slavery
might be agreed to abolish in the future.
Third, I am interested in the top part of city map in gallery 2. In the top part,
there is a place called The African Burial Ground. The explanation, I saw that the
Africans in New York set a place for all the dead people to get rest. They had their
own funeral. In my opinion, this shows that the Africans were building their own
culture in New York at that time. Although they were controlled and limited, they still
had their own ways to communicate with each other and create their own culture.
To me, they were definitely intelligent and organized although they were treated as
animals by Americans.
The next part is the picture in gallery 4. The city shows the process of the
American Revolution in New York city. When the British came in August 1776, many
slaves signed contracts with the British and the British promised them that they
would be paid for their work later. 10,000 people were freed at that time because of
this war. They could choose family names by themselves and define themselves as
free people. And even in 1813, some free black men had the right to vote. This
means a huge set to abolish the slavery. The right to vote means that the American
people gave almost same rights they had to the African people. Therefore, I think
this American Revolution war really enhanced the process of abolishing slavery.
Finally, I was attracted by the first picture in the book in gallery 8. In this
picture, there was a woman and a man. They were dressed up and I can see
happiness and enjoyment from their face. At the right side of the book, it describes
the story of James Miller, a black New Yorker. When I was reading the paragraphs, I
was so happy because this was a signal shows that the slaves were getting their
liberty slowly. Although there were still many limitations on their liberty, it shows
that they would get their fully freedom one day for sure. They were not treated as
tool to work anymore. Their enjoyment and happiness had been considered and
they were allowed to dress up like white people. From these, I can see that the
distance between white people and the slaves was closer and closer.