The African Presence in Rockland County, NY Timeline

The African Presence in Rockland County, NY Timeline



Dutch West India Company establishes New Netherland (later to become NY State). Manhattan Island becomes New Amsterdam.


First 11 enslaved African Men brought to Manhattan Island to labor for the Dutch, building fortifications, roads and farming. Africans enslaved and free live on Manhattan Island.


Land at present day Piermont purchased from the Lenni Lenape Indians by the colonial British.


Legal title was deeded to Orange , known as the Tappan patent, and was granted to “thirteen Dutchmen and three Negroes”. The Africans involved in this transaction were: Claes Manuel (Emanuels), and John De Vries, and a share of the patent to be inherited by Emanuels young son John. The Africans were believed to have been relocated from the Peter Stuyvesant’s Bowery (farm) on Manhattan Island to the area.


Census of total non-Indian Population of Southern Orange County (later to become known as Rockland County)

29 men / 31 women / 140 children / 19 negro slaves / 219 total



Slave Market opens at Wall Street and East River on Manhattan Island supplying enslaved Africans to NY and NJ areas. 


April 7, New York City “Slave Revolt” Seven white citizens are killed and thirteen Africans are executed following the burning of houses near maiden Lane.


Pinkster, Dutch for Pentecost holiday mentioned as celebrated by Dutch and Africans generally during the warm weather month of June.


Africans in Rockland enslaved and free comprised 8% of the population of the southern portion of Orange county.


U.S. Congress enacts 1st Fugitive Slave Act. This law dictates that a person moving an enslaved person from one state to another—must first obtain a certificate of Removal from a local, state or federal judge. The Act also forbade anyone from assisting or sheltering a runaway.


February 23rd officially the date Rockland and Orange Counties were separated. The County seat continues to be administered in New City for inhabitants living south of the mountain.


The Gradual Emancipation Act to free the enslaved Africans of NY is passed to become fully enacted by July 4, 1827.


John Moore, first African American industrialist in Piermont owned a small sawmill and gristmill. By 1815 Moore also owned a carding mill and employed 15 people.

Enslaved Africans comprise 10% of the Rockland population.


NY State legislature enacts laws to protect enslaved families. Marriages between enslaved persons are legally recognized. The law also forbids the separation of parents and children.


Enslaved Africans in New York, legally emancipated, however many still engaged in forms of servitude to former masters, women up to 25 years and men up to 28 years. Last enslaved African in NY freed in 1844.


In Nyack, Mount Moor Cemetery, the burying ground for “Colored People” Deeded by James Benson, and Jane Benson to William H. Moore, Stephen Samuels and Issac Williams, trustees.

Bench near entrance to Mount Moor Cemetery, West Nyack, NY, Sept. 2016.


September 18th, the 2nd Fugitive Slave Act is passed substituting federal jurisdiction for state.


Edward Hesdra of Nyack is an agent for the Underground Railroad assisting enslaved runaways en route to Canada.

Today a plaque commemorates Hesdra’s Underground Railroad involvement at the crossroad of Route 59 and 9W.


July US Congress passes a bill to accept African descended men into the Union army to fight in the Civil War.


January 1, Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation Freeing all enslaved persons except those in states that are not at war with the Union.


April 14, President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.


In NY State only 44 African American men qualify for voting rights due to a requirement that they own property valued at $250. White men are not subject to this prerequisite.


At Sparkill a plot of land is purchased to establish the Old Swamp Church, headed by former enslaved Rev. William P. Thompson.

December 18, the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery in the US is passed.


Frederick Douglass is invited to speak in Nyack by the Nyack Grant and Wilson Club, an African American political organization. The event was attended by more than 700.


“St. Charles AME Church” is built on the site of the former Old Swamp Church in Sparkill, NY.

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Comments ( 4 )

  • Lynwood Oliver

    I am so thankful for the establishment of AAH. Thank you. I am a descendant of Skunk Hollow and am currently doing the research of my family.
    I became a member today and would like to know if I can speak to someone about being an active member. Thank you.
    Lynwood Oliver 646 xxx-xxxx

    • Historian

      Thank you for your comment, Lynwood. We’d love to have you as an active member of the AAHS of Rockland. We will contact you at the number provided. We removed the number it help safeguard your privacy as we endeavor to leave feedback from the community in the public domain.

  • Dan W Pruitt

    I’m doing research on the Black brick workers of Dutchess County.particularly in Brockway. These workers began to arrive in the area ca 1900 from VA and NC, at first seasonally. Those that came and stayed, seemed to be breaking the various Black codes and Jim Crow laws of the southern states they had left?

    Black brick workers made a significant contribution to the industry in Haverstraw(DeNoyelles,Peck,etc). Has anyone at AAHSRC researched this aspect of history, these workers as Escapees from a Jim Crow system of vagrancy laws, sharecropping and tenant farming, slavery by another name. In haverstraw were they recruited to either break strikes or lower the pay scale. It wasn’t due to the color of their skin. I’d appreciate anything you can add to the conversation. Thx

  • Dan W Pruitt

    I suspect the black brickworkers of Haverstraw may have broken State laws (black codes) to get here. Has anyone looked into the process for recruiting brickyard workers from southern states at the turn of the century to work in the Hudson valley? Most states had laws on the books to keep their local Black workers frozen in place. I suspect the workers probably didn’t know or care that they may have broken the law to take these jobs. What say you?

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