Slavery and Freedom in Nineteenth Century Watervliet


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slavery and freedom in watervlietThe Historian’s Office and Historical Society of the Town of Colonie will host Michael T. Lucas, PHD, who will speak on the topic of Slavery in the old Town of Watervliet, on Sunday, March 26, 2017 at 2 pm.

Slavery and Freedom in Nineteenth Century Watervliet will be held at the William K. Sanford (Colonie) Town Library, 629 Albany Shaker Road.

Enslaved people of African and Native American descent were used as the primary labor force in New York from the 1620s until gradual emancipation abolished the institution in 1827. Though the numbers of slaves per household were smaller in New York than the southern plantations, several wealthy land owners around Albany did retain over 5 slaves on their rural estates. Three of these estates were the Nicoll-Sill house in Bethlehem, Schuyler Flatts in Colonie, and the Van Schaick Mansion in Cohoes. Enslaved people did most of the household maintenance and production on these estates. Following emancipation African Americans were replaced by Irish, English and, German immigrants who formed the primary rural labor force in the capital region by 1850. While most African Americans moved from Watervliet after emancipation, the Jackson, Thompson, and Powell families established independent households, purchased land, and established small farms in the township. The Van Schaick family of Cohoes and Schuyler family at Schuyler Flatts adapted to these changes as well. This talk will look at what history and archaeology tell us about the strategies used by these families in this transition from slavery to freedom during the 19th century.

Michael Lucas has been the Curator of Historical Archaeology at the New York State Museum since 2014. Before coming to the museum, Michael worked for a variety of organizations doing historical archaeology in the Middle-Atlantic region. He received a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland in 2008 focusing on town development and settlement in Maryland between 1680 and 1720. His current research focuses on slavery and its aftermath in the Hudson River valley. He also conducts comparative research on eighteenth century development of New York City and Albany using the historical archaeology collections at the museum.

Photo provided.

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