There is a nationwide movement to reconsider the names of places and teams and to stop honoring racists and racist symbols. The Cleveland Indians will soon be no more; the baseball team will be known as the Cleveland Guardians. The Washington Redskins are now the Washington Football Team while a new name is being considered. A bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader, a Confederate general responsible for atrocities committed against African American troops serving in the United States army, and a founder of the terrorist Ku Klux Klan, was finally removed from the state capitol building in Nashville, Tennessee. Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced the Reconciliation in Place Names Act to create a special advisory committee to investigate and propose changes to offensive place names. There remain thousands of towns, lakes, streams, creeks and mountains in the United States with racist names.
In New York City, Eric Adams, the Democratic Party candidate for Mayor, pledges to rename streets and buildings named after slave-owners. The name of a Bronx Park was recently changed from Mullaly to Foster. John Mullaly was indicted during the Civil War for inciting a draft riot that led to the murder of African Americans on the streets of Manhattan. The Reverend Wendell Foster was a Bronx community activist who campaigned to have the park restored.
The following Manhattan streets are named for slaveholders and slave traders:
Bayard Street in present day Chinatown is named after Nicholas Bayard, a nephew of Peter Stuyvesant, and an early mayor of British New York. Bayard was convicted of complicity with the pirate William Kidd but escaped punishment. Nicholas and his son owned and operated sugar mills processing slave-produced commodities in the city and owned stakes in at least eight slave trading ships. Bayard is listed as holding against his will the accused enslaved African Phaeton in records of the 1741 slave rebellion plot.
Beekman Street and Place near City Hall Park are named after Willem Beeckman (William Beekman), a colonial mayor of New York City and a major landowner. A number of sources list the Beekman’s as slaveholders and slave traders. Nearby William Street is also named after Beeckman.
Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village is named after writer Anthony Bleecker. Bleecker is listed as a slaveholder in records of the Trinity Church.
Bogardus Place in northern Manhattan is named after the Bogardus family that owned a large farm in the area of Manhattan by Fort Tryon Park. They are listed as slaveholders in the 1810 census.
Broome Street in SOHO is named after New York City merchant John Broome who lived by Hanover Square near South Street Seaport. Broome is listed as a slaveholder in the 1790 census. Burling Slip at South Street Seaport is named after the Burling family, 18th century merchants and slave traders.
Catherine Lane, Catherine Slip, and Catherine Street near present day Chinatown are named after Catherine De Peyster Rutgers. The De Peyster and Rutgers family are listed as slaveholders in records of the 1741 slave rebellion plot.
Chambers Street north of City Hall is named after John Chambers, a lawyer and judge, who is listed in records of the 1741 slave rebellion plot as having an enslaved African man named Cuba. He was also listed as a slaveholder in Trinity Church records.
Charlton Street in west SOHO is named after Dr. John Charlton, a British doctor who served as President of the New York Medical Society. He was listed as a slaveholder in the 1800 census and Trinity Church records.
Clarkson Street in Greenwich Village is named after Matthew Clarkson, a Revolutionary War soldier who later supported abolition while serving in the state legislature. The Clarkson family was listed as slaveholders in a number of 18th century sources and Matthew Clarkson is listed as a slaveholder in the 1800 census.
Clinton Street on the Lower East Side is named after Revolutionary War General George Clinton who became the first post-war Governor of New York and Vice-President of the United States in 1804. He is listed as a slaveholder in the 1790s in a number of different sources.
Coenties Slip in the Wall Street area is named after Conraet Ten Eyck who is listed in records of the 1741 slave rebellion plot as the enslaver of an African man named Dick who was transported to the sugar fields of Barbados.
Cortlandt Street in the Wall Street area and Cortlandt Alley in Chinatown are named after the Van Cortlandt family. Documentary sources including wills shows that the Van Cortlandt family were slave traders and one of the largest slaveholders in colonial New York.
Cuylers Alley is named after Henry Cuyler. His family owned a sugar warehouse near the African Burial Ground. He was a documented slave trader.
Delancey Street is a major Lower East Side cross street starting at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. It is named after State Supreme Court Judge James de Lancey. De Lancey is listed as the enslaver of African men Antonio, and Othello who were accused of participation in the 1741 slave rebellion plot. Antonio was convicted and transported to the sugar plantations of Barbados. Othello was hanged in what is now Foley Square. Oliver Street is named after his brother, Oliver de Lancey.
Depeyster Street at South Street Seaport is named after Abraham de Peyster, a wealthy merchant and mayor from 1691-1695. De Peyster, a slave trader, personally enslaved between 9 and 13 Africans according to different sources. There is a statue of de Peyster in Thomas Paine Park near the Supreme Court building.
Desbrosses Street in west SOHO is named after Elias Desbrosses, colonial era founder, treasurer, and President of the New York City Chamber of Commerce and active in the trade with the West Indies. In a 1771 run-away slave ad notes his involvement in the sale of an enslaved African named Brit. His descendants are listed as slaveholders in the 1790 census. James Street is named after a member of the Desbrosses family.
Duane Street runs right by the African Burial Ground National Monument in the City Hall area. It is named after James Duane, the first mayor of New York after the British evacuation. He was a founder of the New York Manumission Society, but is named as a slaveholder in Trinity Church records. His father Anthony was listed as a slaveholder in records of the 1741 slave rebellion plot.
Dyckman Street on the border of Washington Heights and Inwood is named after the Dyckman family that still owned a large part of northern Manhattan from the colonial era through the Civil War. The Dyckman farmhouse is still at 204th Street and Broadway. Prior to the end of slavery in New York State, the Dyckman family held in bondage at least seven people. Jacobus Place is named after one of the Dyckmans.
Edgar Street, south of Trinity Church, is named after William Edgar who ran a shipping company and owned warehouses. He is listed as holding enslaved Africans on the 1790-1820 census reports.
Gracie Square by the mayor’s residence on the Upper East Side is named after merchant and banker Archibald Gracie who is listed as owning enslaved Africans in documents from the first decade of the 19th century.
Hamilton Place and Terrace are located near the City College of New York and are named after Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton’s name appears on bills of sale for enslaved Africans from the 1780s and 1790s. His will lists the value of of his “servants.”
Henry Street, Rutgers Street, and Rutgers Slip on the Lower East Side are named after Henry Rutgers. Rutgers’ ownership of enslaved Africans is documented in a number of sources including his will.
Hester Street in present day Chinatown is named for Hester Leisler Rynders, daughter of Governor Jacob Leisler and wife of Barnet Rynders. Records show that Hester owned enslaved Africans and Barnet Rynders was involved in the slave trade.
Houston Street, the major east-west thoroughfare in downtown Manhattan is named after William Houstoun, a Georgia delegate to the Continental Congress. Houstoun was married to the daughter of Nicholas Bayard and was a planter and slaveholder.
Jackson Street in the Lower East Side by the East River is named after President Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder who committed genocidal acts against Native Americans.
Jay Street in Tribeca is named after John Jay, Supreme Court Justice and New York State Governor. Although Jay was a founder of the manumission society and signed into law the gradual emancipation act, he was a slaveholder.
Jefferson Street, located in present day Chinatown. Jefferson Market Library is in Greenwich Village. They are named after President Thomas Jefferson, who held enslaved people on his Monticello plantation.
Jumel Place, Jumel Terrace and Jumel Mansion are located in Washington Heights and named after wine merchant Stephen Jumel who immigrated to New York City in 1795 during the Haitian slave rebellion when his coffee plantation in Haiti where he held enslaved Africans was liberated in the revolt.
Lenox Avenue, co-named Malcolm X Boulevard, and Lenox Terrace, were named after Robert Lenox. A merchant and real estate investor listed as a slaveholder on a number of documents.
Leonard Street, north of the African Burial Ground National Monument in the City Hall area, is named after Leonard Lispenard. He is listed as an enslaver of Africans in the 1810 census. Thomas Street, two blocks south, is named after his brother and Lispenard Street, just south of Canal Street, is named after his father.
Leroy Street in the West Village is named after merchant Jacob Leroy. Ship documents show he was involved in the slave trade and enslaved Africans.
MacDougal Street and Alley near Washington Square Park are named after ship’s captain Alexander MacDougall who was a founder of the New York branch of the Sons of Liberty. A January 5, 1782 run-away slave ad offers a one guinea reward for a “negro boy named Cudjoe” who escaped from the ship Emanuel and Hercules under the command of Alexander MDougal.
Macombs Place in North Harlem is named after Alexander Macombs, a soldier during the War of 1812. He is listed as a slaveholder on documents from 1790 and 1812. There is also a Macombs Road in the Bronx, a Macombs Dam Park and a Macombs Dam Bridge connecting the Bronx and Manhattan.
Madison Street, located in present day Chinatown, Madison Avenue, a major north-south thoroughfare, and Madison Square are named after President James Madison who was a slaveholder.
Monroe Street, located in present day Chinatown, is named after President James Monroe who was a slaveholder.
Morton Street in the West Village is named after lawyer and soldier Jacob Morton who is listed as a slaveholder on multiple documents.
Mott Street in present day Chinatown is named after Joseph Mott, a prosperous butcher and tavern keeper who is listed as a slaveholder on multiple documents.
Murray Street in Tribeca is named after lawyer Joseph Murray who enslaved an African man named Adam, who was convicted of participation in the 1741 slave rebellion plot and transported to Barbados.
Peck Slip near the South Street Seaport is named after Benjamin Peck, a merchant, kept an African man enslaved. His name is unknown, but he is believed to have committed suicide after being accused of participation in the 1741 slave rebellion plot.
Pell Street in present day Chinatown is named after John Pell, a New York butcher, who his listed as a slaveholder on 1800 and 1810 documents.
Reade Street abuts the African Burial Ground National Monument in the City Hall area. It is named after Joseph Reade, a merchant, was warden at Trinity Church. In a 1732 fugitive slave notice he offers a reward for the return of a “mullatto servant woman” named Sarah.
Rivington Street on the Lower East Side is named for James Rivington, a newspaper publisher, named as a slaveholder on multiple documents from 1770-1790. In 1783, a Mr. Rivington advertised in the Royal Gazette for the return of a “little Negro boy.”
Rose Street near City Hall is named after Captain Joseph Rose, a merchant and distiller, who was listed as a slaveholder in 1790 documents.
Rutherford Place near Union Square is named after Colonel John Rutherford who was listed as a slaveholder in 1790.
Seaman Avenue in Inwood at the northern tip of Manhattan is named after Henry Seaman who is listed as a slaveholder in 1790.
Sickles Street is east of Fort Tryon Park and is named after the Sickels family. A number of members of the family were slaveholders.
Stuyvesant Alley, Place and Oval in the Stuyvesant Town housing development are named after Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor of New Netherland. Stuyvesant was the largest private slaveholder in the Dutch colony.
Tompkins Square in the East Village is named after Daniel D. Tompkins, a New York State Governor and Vice-President of the United States under James Monroe. Tompkins was instrumental in the passage of the law that banned slavery in New York State, but also was listed as a slaveholder in 1800 documents. The Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island is also named for him.
Vandam Street in west SOHO is named after members of the Van Dam family. Rip Van Dam, a British Governor of the New York colony, was a major slave trader and enslaver of one of the Africans suspected of participation in the 1741 slave rebellion plot.
Varick Street runs north-south from Hudson Square in the West Village to the World Trade Center and is named after Revolutionary War Colonel Richard Varick who was Mayor of New York City from 1789 to 1801. Records from the 1741 slave rebellion plot list the Vaarck family as major slaveholders. Varick is listed as a slaveholder on multiple documents between 1787 and 1805.
Vermilyea Avenue is near Inwood Park in northern Manhattan and is named after the Vermeille family (also spelled Vermilya). Multiple family members were slaveholders. In 1765, John Vermillye advertised for the return of freedom-seeker Toney, a “Mulatto fellow.”
Washington Mews, Place, and Square in Greenwich Village are named after George Washington, Revolutionary War general and the first President of the United States, who held enslaved Africans on his Mount Vernon, Virginia plantation. Washington Street in near the Hudson River in the West Village.
Watts Street is near the Manhattan entrance to the Holland Tunnel and is named after John Watts, a British colonial official. Watts was a slave trader and slaveholder.
Willett Street is in the Lower East Side near the Manhattan base of the Williamsburg Bridge and is named after New York City sheriff and mayor Marinus Willett. Willett is listed as a slaveholder on documents dated between 1787 and 1800.
Other suspected participants in the slave system:
Arden Street near Inwood Park is named after Jacob Arden who died during the Revolutionary War. His wife was Catherine Beekman. The 1800 New York City Census lists a Jacob Arden, possibly a son, who held four enslaved Africans. The Beekman family were also major slaveholders. The Rutgers family is listed as slaveholders in records of the 1741 slave rebellion plot.
Barclay Street, west of City Hall Park in lower Manhattan is named after Henry Barclay, the rector of Trinity Church from 1746 until he died in 1764. Barclay was married to Mary Rutgers. Their son Thomas Barclay is listed as a slaveholder on the 1800 census.
Nagle Avenue near Inwood Park is named after Jan Nagel, a wealthy landowner in northern Manhattan who partnered with the Dyckmans.
Illustrations, from above: the tombstone of Elias Desbrosses in Trinity Church yard; engraving of colonial New York councilors Nicholas Bayard, Stephanus van Cortlandt, and Frederick Phillipse quieting fears during the 1689 Leisler’s Rebellion in New York City; the statue of Abraham de Peyster was originally in Bowling Green; Wall Street slave auction; and African Burial Ground plaque.
Leo Schreuders says
A lot of names from the Dutch Period of New Amsterdam are at risk to be eliminated.
Reminders of that period will vanish.
As if history can be undone.
We as Dutch, the Dutch government has apologized for this black page in history.
But does that mean that all reminders of our close links should be eliminated?
I think it’s important to recognize that these places had names before the English and Dutch came to these shores.
If these street names are removed, we can preserve them in other ways.
It wouldn’t be erasing history if we did this right. The removal of these names would be well documented elsewhere.
During a decades-long dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, streets were named after the dictator and statues were erected. After his assassination, they were torn down, replaced, renamed. But we know the history.
This page is a perfect example of history being preserved. These are stories and streets I never looked closely at until now.
I’m not saying this is an easy “solution”. There is a lot of feelings attached to these street names…but food for thought.
Carol Drew-Peeples says
Easy for you to say since your ancestors were not enslaved. BTW, the existence of many of my ancestors during that period has vanished. History can’t be undone but it sure can be discovered and disclosed. An apology is nice, but it does absolutely nothing. Apologizing doesn’t undo anything. That period of American history is clearly documented. It doesn’t need street names.
Thank you for this valuable information! It highlights how much slavery was as American as apple pie. This list could serve as a blueprint for righting the wrongs of our American history.
Justin Williams says
Any glorified leaders from the past who were directly involved in the ownership, buying and selling of enslaved people must have their names taken down from all public locations in this country. Further, reparations must be issued to the descendents of those enslaved prior and during Constitutional America, as well as those descended from African Americans denied wages and property during the legal segregation/Jim Crow period of American history. But how?
Certainly not through cash payments. How about no taxes of any kind to such descendents for the duration that slavery and Jim Crow existed on the continent? How about a free public education to such descendents as long as they continue to qualify academically? How about federally monitored and supported banks that are black owned in communities with populations over 50% African American? This would be a good start.
This social justice endeavor, in terms of reparations, no taxes, free public ed, etc, where will that money come from?
Justin Williams says
The trillions of dollars of wealth gained by these United States during centuries of slavery and Jim Crow, from where did it come?
onaje muid says
i am impressed and thoroughly grateful. pls add me to you email list.
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Deirdre Sinnott says
Excellent work, Alan!
Robert Drummond says
Neither I, nor my children owned slaves. We are not responsible for the circumstances that surrounded the failure of reconstruction.
I support concept of affirmative action in education and diversity mandates to close the economic gap that is a result of racist behaviors in my lifetime.
Nathan Bedford Forest nor any of his constituents do not merit to be honored in any way due to their savagely criminal behavior in their lifetimes especially after the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments became the law of the land.
So where does this movement take us? I’m familiar with many white people whose descendents died as combatants in the Civil War. What was the impact of their deaths on their families? All citizens of every race in the US enjoy now the economic fruits of our success as a nation historically. Isn’t that sufficient?
Where is the compensation/ consideration for the people of all hertages during our transition into an industrial nation. What about the victims of the Homestead riots and other labor related abuses by our government? While you’re at it, why not compensate them as well? When you get down to it don’t they deserve similar treatment. Shouldn’t Vanderbilt, Morgan and Carnegie be stripped of their honors as well?
This is nothing less than misguided political posturing by persons who wish to curry favor for themselves or their party in the electorate. If they are serious in this effort then think big. Start with dismantling the Washington monument, the Jefferson memorial, close all memorials dedicated to any president who owned slaves, yes? Dont you see where that brings us in the end? It can only serve to fan the flames of racism.
We need to move forward as a nation. Fix what is broken and insure that no such injustice occurs in our future. My concern is that our politicians continue to mortgage our future without any thought of it’s impact down the line. A chicken in every pot is not a new concept. 40 acres and a mule was impractical in the 1870s but the tag line garnered political support for certain unscrupulous politicians. The fact is that what we’re proposing is unsustainable and will leave our grandchildren with a burden that could lead to calamitous results.
I hate racism and look forward to a new dawn that our kids will bring to life. It’s apparent that this generation is moving strongly towards a more just society. Let’s not spoil that effort by damaging their prospects economically. Let’s support them. This movement will cause more harm than good because it keeps racism alive. Who cares about Jan Nagle? It’s time for racism to come to an end and changing street names will not bring that about.
Van Nuys, California should be changed too. I think the Van Nuys family owned slaves. I descend from the early New Netherlands / New York people. Rapalje, Van Salee who was mixed race, Bergen, Westfall, Stillwell, Emans, Middagh etc. I know some streets were named after them. My ancestor Anthony Van Salee’s brother had a mulatto child. Mulatto children married other mulattos and whites. I downloaded my FTDNA raw data to Gedmatch and did the archaic test. I have a tiny amount of Moroccan, Libyan Jewish and Algerian Jewish DNA. So be careful about the names you want to change because millions of us are descended from those mixed race people of the 1600’s and 1700’s who have both African and European ancestry. We should concentrate on the good people of all races and remember the whites who helped the Africans and Native Indians. At the same time we should scold the evil people of all races for the bad things they did. Slavery is one thing but also look at and remember those who were against slavery like Anthony Van Salee was. The Rapaljes took care of Anthony’s brother and his mulatto child when he was ill. Along with the bad there was good during those times too. The Dutch Reformed Church and Lutheran church married and baptized Africans and mulattos and many whites are listed as their baptismal sponsors and helped them during their pregnancies and births. They wanted to be free in Jesus.
Lawrence Henderson says
Thank you for your hard work and research Prof. Singer!