The DyckmanDISCOVERED initiative investigates the stories of enslaved people belonging to the Dyckman family and the community that is now called Inwood. This initiative brings an inclusive history to the community, fosters a sense of transparency and, we hope, engages visitors who have not seen themselves represented in the current narrative.
With a grant from The New York Community Trust, DFM hired a part-time research assistant to uncover truths about the people who worked on the Dyckman Farm and the other farms nearby. With new information, DFM designed new educational materials for the museum, created public programs and engaged local artists to produce site specific installations that communicate the story of these underrepresented people. This project reinforces the importance of inclusive historical narratives in America’s historical institutions, of all sizes.
As we continue our research, we are making discoveries about the lives of the enslaved and free peoples who lived in the Dyckman Farmhouse as well as on neighboring farms. While much research is still being undertaken, we would like to share what we know about the lives we are learning about.
SLAVERY IN THE NORTH
Slavery was by no means only in the South. Northerners had their own system for integrating enslaved people into the economy and had their own ways of isolating them from all forms of social and economic mobility.
Slavery was introduced into this area by the Dutch in 1626. There was much land but a chronic shortage of people to work it. Between 1700 and 1750, the enslaved population in New York grew faster than the white population. By mid-century, New Netherlands was the largest slave colony in the North.
The Dutch West India Trade Company had few regulations relating to slavery. Northern laws were more lenient towards familial connections and pay. Slavery in the North, however, was still implemented by force and abuse. Laws and regulations surrounding slavery became strict during British rule in the North.
Slavery in New York State ended in 1827, yet traces of it survived until 1841.
Just as slavery in the North differed from slavery in the South, rural slavery , including the Dyckman Farmhouse at the time, was very different from slavery in urban areas. In rural New York, the enslaved performed agricultural labor and other highly-skilled work.
New York farms were self-contained units in which the enslaved members of the household had to be able to grow crops, as well as tend to livestock, do carpentry work, make clothing, clean, cook, and be caretakers of children.
Enslaved were often bilingual, if not multilingual; they spoke Dutch, English, French, and their native language.
Shortly after the still standing Dyckman Farmhouse was built, there were seven to eight enslaved people living there.
Family tradition tells of a free black woman named Hannah who lived with the family and worked as a cook. Based on those stories we believe she was living in the farmhouse in 1820. According to census records, Hannah was born between 1784-1794 which would make her between the ages of 26 and 36 in 1820. A 1917 legislature states the following: “the cook, black Hannah, who had been born on the place as the daughter of a slave who was partly of Indian blood. Tradition describes her with a right-colored headgear, face black as ebony, temper decidedly irregular, and a strong leaning toward a corncob pipe.”
The only enslaved person that we know of by full name in Dyckman family history, Francis Cudjoe was manumitted in 1809 by Jacobus Dyckman. He lived and worked on the farm roughly a decade prior to Hannah, but their time at the farmhouse may have overlapped.
August 2018 Press Conference:
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