The Workers - Age of Slavery in New York

The Workers

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Age of Slavery in New York

Janet Livingston Montgomery was born into a slaveholding society.

Generations of her family had been slave owners and even slave traders. Enslaved Africans worked for the Livingstons at their gristmills, in their farm fields, and in other family businesses including the Ancram Ironworks, a furnace where workers processed raw iron and cast firebacks and other objects. African captives also worked in Livingston homes as servants.

In 1794, traveler William Strickland noted the presence of enslaved children working when he breakfasted at the home of Robert Livingston, Janet’s brother:

“Four negro boys, the eldest about 11 or 12, the youngest about 5 or 6 years old, clean and well dressed but bare-footed, in a livery green turned up with red waited about the table….Three black men in livery waited at dinner and the boys before mentioned, their children. It is not unusual for the female Blacks to wait [on table]; an instance of which we met with yesterday at Mrs. Livingstone’s [sic] the Mother of the Chancellor, where all the party dined.”

 

Peter Manigault and His Friends, by George Roupel. Ink on paper, 1768. Courtesy, Winterthur Museum. 

Coachman’s livery from Montgomery Place. Wool, brass, metallic thread, c. 1820. Bard College, Montgomery Place Collection.

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