Peter Stuyvesant was one of the top slaveowners in the 1600s and there is a street named after him in Brooklyn, New York — one of many in the borough named after slave traders and slave owners. A group of residents wants to change that.
When Elsa Eli Waithe, a local comedienne, discovered the legacy behind Stuyvesant Avenue, she started Slavers of New York, a Stealth Sticker Campaign and education initiative. It’s dedicated to revealing — and eventually mapping — the history of slavery in New York City, The New York Times reported.
The stickers, which look like street signs, feature the names of prominent New Yorkers and provide information on the number of slaves they owned. They’re designed by Ada Reso, 30, Waithe’s roommate, with research by Maria Robles, 33.
The trio has distributed about 1,000 stickers, mostly in Brooklyn, with plans to expand throughout the five boroughs of New York.
“Peter Stuyvesant was a slave trader,” reads one. “Peter Stuyvesant trafficked 290 human beings in the first slave auction in Manhattan.”
For many who see the stickers, it is a surprise to learn the extent of slavery heritage in New York City.
“We’ve all been given this education around, ‘Slavery happened in the South, and the North were the good guys,’ when in reality it was happening here,” Robles said.
Enslaved labor helped build New York and drove its development and economic growth, according to Leslie M. Harris, a professor of history and African-American studies at Northwestern University and author of “In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.”
At one point, 40 percent of Manhattan households owned slaves, most of them Black women performing domestic work, Harris said.
Wall Street banks financed the cotton trade and shipped to New England and British textile mills, according to Jonathan Daniel Wells, a history professor at the University of Michigan.
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Some are pushing for streets named after slave owners to be changed. However, the precedent of ridding some areas of slave-trader and slave-owner names could mean the entire city and state could be eligible to undergo a name change.
“Both New York and New York City were named after the prestigious House of York, specifically the Duke of York — James Stuart — during the mid 17th century, National File reported.
Stuart was one of the most prolific New York slave traders, having facilitated the trade of 90,000-to-100,000 Africans across the Atlantic Ocean.