Column: What’s In a Name: New York

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As many people across the United States call for the cleansing of America’s history and the removal of statues exhibiting racism, this opens the portal to the history of our own state: New York.
Perhaps it’s time for New York and New York City to have a name change, since both were named after one of history’s most blatant slave traders.
In the 1600s New York was named after James Stuart (King James II), who went on to become Duke of York, Duke of Albany, and King of England, Scotland (as King James VII), as well as Ireland.

Stuart eventually capturd several settlements all along the Atlantic coast, including the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam, which was quickly renamed “New York.” He then expanded his involvement in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Between 1672 and 1689, James, through his family’s Royal African Company, an English mercantile company, transported African slaves, in the hundreds of thousands, to his English colonies in the Caribbean and throughout the Americas.
The origins of New York State are symbolized by the monuments to slavery etched into its very streets.

At least 24 streets, one high school and two housing divisions in our state have been named after New Yorkers who were very heavily involved in the slave trade between the 17th and 18th centuries.
Some of these monuments include Bayard Street, named after the influential slave-trading Bayard family, who owned sugar mills, using slave labor, and also owned at least eight slave-trading ships.

There are Bayard Streets in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Rochelle and Larchmont. The very famous Stuyvesant High School and Stuyvesant Street in Manhattan was named after Dutch Colonial Superintendent Peter Stuyvesant, who was known as “the largest private slaveholder” in the Dutch colony of what was then named New Amsterdam.

The equestrian statue of former president and governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt, outside of NYC’s American Museum of Natural History, will now be taken down after decades-long campaigns by historical revisionists.

The bronze monument displays Roosevelt on a horse with two men, one Native American and one African, walking on each side of him. Activists have argued as to what this statue represents.

As reported by Reuters, President Trump said he opposed removing this statue of Theodore Roosevelt.
The City of Albany erected a statue of Major General Schuyler in 1925 in his honor. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan has ordered city employees to take down Schuyler’s statue because he owned 17 slaves.
Let’s take a look at the history of Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray. Marcia Kramer, CBS News political reporter explains, Gracie Mansion could be in for a name change, as First Lady Chirlane McCray has discovered that the house was built in 1799 by people who were enslaved and indentured servants.

First Lady McCray stated that although Archibald Gracie, a prosperous New York merchant, held membership in New York’s Manumission Society, whose mission was to end slavery, he did hold in bondage three Americans.

In the same year the house was built, New York passed a Gradual Emancipation Act that freed children that were born into slavery, but indentured them until they were young adults. The final emancipation was in 1827, and New York became the first state to pass a law for the total abolition of legal slavery.
New York State, grappling with its own racist history, has decided to move forward and attempt to undo some of its past’s glorification of slave owners and the slave trade. More and more statues of historical figures are either being taken down by authorities or vandalized and destroyed by protestors.
New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio has now created a commission, the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission, to identify such areas where possible discrimination continues to exist in the City.

An objective of this commission is to review whether certain historical landmarks such as statues and building dedications are appropriate. If you know what symbols to look for on government buildings, you will learn a great deal about how our “new world” was founded.
The Founding Fathers are often portrayed in a different light than history would tell. This is prevalent in entertainment according to historian, Harvard law professor and 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner in History, Annette Gordon-Reed.

In the Harvard Gazette, Gordon-Reed refers to the show “Hamilton” as problematic in its portrayal of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, Founding Fathers, and the issue of slavery.

She states that “Hamilton was not an abolitionist. He bought and sold slaves for his in-laws, and opposing slavery was never at the forefront of his agenda. The Founders accepted slavery as an institution. In the musical, only Jefferson is shown as a slave holder.

But Madison owned slaves too, and so did George Washington. ” In Washington Square Park, two marble likenesses of George Washington have been vandalized.
Think of all the leaders who were pro-slavery that were “put in place” to govern and write the laws of our country. Was our government that ignorant as to honor and celebrate them?

Keep in mind that history books are written by the victor. Does that make history accurate and real?
If the schools aren’t teaching history as it happened, leaving out elements of great significance, what other facts are students not being taught?
The educational system was meant to create a population that will learn what is told to them. What about thinking independently, questioning, dissecting information or putting facts together?
Society was created by “design” according to the ideology of our founders and hierarchy that dates back centuries. So came the New World, which was later named America (the Great). And from that came President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” (MAGA speeches, hats, shirts).

Events run deeper than mere political parties. It is more than just the democrats and the republicans.
So, to put our Founding Fathers’ “ideology” into reality: If we do not unite as “We The People,” then how our country was founded is exactly how it will end.
Gary Feldman

Port Washington
Gary Feldman is a researcher, health writer, nutrition educator and lecturer and instructor in the Port Washington Union Free School District Continuing Education program. garyteach1@gmail.com

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