It is doubtless a fact that most Northerners, including the writer, think that slavery in America was a Southern problem. In the North slavery was an occasional institution, or so we think.
A week ago on Thursday 6/8/17 I attended a program at the library, “Abolition and Women’s Rights in Local History” presented by the students of Hudson Community Schools’ Writing Center at the Hudson High School. More about this project here.
The bulk of the program revolved around presentations by the students of their research and creative projects about slavery, abolitionists and women’s rights activists of the 1830s-1850s in upstate NY. The word and image projects are on display in the library now.
Slavery in Hudson and Columbia County
But, I want to focus on just one aspect here. The program opened with readings of notices of runaways slaves from the Hudson River Valley. Many were notices from slave owners in Hudson and Columbia County dating roughly from 1795 to 1840. The source of these notices is In Defiance: runaways from slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley, 1735-1831 ((Stessin-Cohn, Susan, and Ashley Hurlburt-Biagini. In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley, 1735-1831, 2016.)) It is available in the library.
One hint about the deep history of slavery in our region is the fact that over 50% of the runaways spoke both Dutch and English.1 This is clearly an indication that they lived here long enough to learn two languages.
Here are a few samples from the book: (click on images for full size)
- p324. Stessin-Cohn, Susan, and Ashley Hurlburt-Biagini. In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley, 1735-1831, 2016. [↩]