A rare manuscript from Special Collections documenting slavery on Long Island is currently on view through May 27 at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Featured in the new exhibition “Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island” is the contract for the sale of “Jack” in Southampton, Long Island, New York, dated March 21, 1798. “Jack,” aged 17 years and five months, was conveyed from Josiah Hand to William H. Helme for a period of six years and seven months, and was then to be freed. The sheet measures 23 cm x 30 cm and is signed at the bottom by Josiah Hand and William H. Helme, and witnessed by Jesse Hedges and Ithuel Hill. The document includes two small wax seals. A transcription can be read here.
According to the museum website: “In 1626, Dutch merchants brought the first group of enslaved Africans to New Amsterdam. When the English took control of the colony in 1664 they made New York a hub of the slave trade. Over the centuries, the institution of slavery impacted every community on Long Island. Imported as laborers by European colonists, these enslaved Africans and their descendants performed domestic, industrial, and agricultural work while fighting to maintain a complex cultural heritage. New York State formally abolished slavery in 1827 after significant opposition from enslaved and free African Americans and their white abolitionist allies. In the wake of the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement, legacies of slavery endure on Long Island in how we think about race and relate to one another on institutional and individual levels even today.”
The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook. It is a Smithsonian affiliate. More information is available on the museum website.