Social History for Every Classroom


Social History for Every Classroom

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New Amsterdam Grants "Half Freedom" to Slaves

In the 1640s, a group of enslaved Africans petitioned the Dutch West India Company for their freedom. The company's director-general, William Kieft, agreed to grant them "half freedom" (their children were not free and they owed an annual payment to the company), and gave them tracts of land in the unsettled area north of the city, thereby creating a "buffer zone" between European settlers and increasingly hostile Native Americans. Located about a mile from the city in what was primarily swampy, hilly wilderness, this so-called "Land of the Blacks" comprised several communities. Freed slaves received land grants ranging from two to eighteen acres; those who had served as soldiers in New Amsterdam's defense were particularly favored. The land these freed slaves came to inhabit—over 130 acres or 100 square city blocks—formed the basis of New York's first black community.

Source | Ira Berlin and Leslie Harris, eds., Slavery in New York (New-York Historical Society and The New Press, 2005), 43.
Creator | New Amsterdam Colony
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | New Amsterdam Colony, “New Amsterdam Grants "Half Freedom" to Slaves,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 3, 2023,

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