Join RoundTable for First Fridays!

Inspired by the pursuit of life-long learning, new complimentary seminars will be presented on the first Friday of every month! Each session will be livestreamed and then available to watch for an additional 24 hours. 

There is a limited number of participants, so click “RESERVE HERE” at the bottom of the page to save your space now!   

New Discoveries, New Amsterdam
Observations about Slavery, Race and Culture in Seventeenth- Century Manhattan

Moderated by Dr. Dennis Maika


In the late 1650’s, the Dutch West India Company initiated an “experiment” that would bring enslaved Africans from its budding slave-trading entrepot in Curacao to New Amsterdam on a regular basis.  Essential to this new venture was the Company’s ability to incentivize private merchant entrepreneurs to add the slave trade to their commercial portfolios.  The offer aroused the interest of Manhattan merchants who at the time were responsible for the city’s rapid economic growth.

Seventeenth-century Manhattan was no stranger to enslaved people. The first captive Africans may have arrived as early as 1625 as “prizes” sold from privateers; others followed in the same irregular way.  Their labor was hard and relentless yet, once in Manhattan, enslaved Africans were permitted to petition the government, appear in court, baptize their children and marry in the Dutch Reformed Church. Some were freed and given property on the island. By the late 1650s, the institution of slavery had yet to be codified and relationships between free and enslaved Africans and white Europeans in New Amsterdam were flexible.

Within this historical context, we wonder what the merchants were thinking.  How would they have explained their willingness to consider promoting and encouraging the enslavement of human beings?  Using available evidence, my talk will take a close look at decisions made within the unique historical context of seventeenth-century Manhattan in order to speculate about motive and mindset.  Such a discussion may stimulate thinking about contemporary issues in America.

Dennis J. Maika Dennis J. Maika, Senior Historian and Education Director at the New Netherland Institute, received his Ph.D. in History from New York University; his dissertation was awarded the Hendricks Manuscript Prize. He is a Fellow of the Holland Society of New York, the New Netherland Institute, the New York Academy of History, and was the Senior Scholar in Residence at the New Netherland Research Center (2012-2013). 

As a historian of colonial New York, he has served as a consultant for local history and education projects and has written numerous articles and papers. He is currently working on a book about Manhattan merchants and their city government in the Dutch and English periods of seventeenth-century New York history. As a professional educator, he taught History and Psychology at the high school and college levels for several decades.

To read his recent article in the Journal of Early American History, “To ‘experiment with a parcel of negros’ – Incentive, Collaboration, and Competition in New Amsterdam’s Slave Trade,” please CLICK HERE.

Friday, November 6th at 2:00pm EDT

registration closed