New campaign targets NYC’s ‘shocking’ legacy of slavery

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A group of anti-racist activists in the Big Apple is plastering signs all over some city streets and storefronts that are named after prominent New York slave owners.

The group, which consists of artists and educators, has distributed about 1,000 stickers in public places as a part of their “Slavers of New York” educational campaign.

In Brooklyn, lampposts on Nostrand Avenue have been emblazoned with signs reading “John Van Nostrand was a slave owner.”

Nostrand was a Dutch settler whose family owned approximately 43 slaves from 1790 to 1820.

Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn is another New York City street named after a slave owner, said Maria Robles, a campaign co-founder.

slave owner history
Black-owned, Brooklyn-based sticker shop Comik Ink produces the stickers that adorn street signs named after slave owners.
Reuters

“It was named for the Cortelyou family,” Robles told Reuters. “As our sticker states, the Cortelyou family were slave owners, enslaving approximately 55 people collectively between the years of 1800 and 1810, according to census records.”

The group plans to expand the campaign to all five boroughs.

So far, the reaction to “Slavers of New York” has been mostly “shock” and “repulsion” — as many New Yorkers had no idea they have been walking down streets named after men with dark histories for years.

slave owner campaign
The group plans to expand the campaign to all five boroughs in NYC.
Reuters

“A lot of these streets run through black and brown neighborhoods and that the people walking these neighborhoods are still saying a slave owner’s name, and it’s unbeknownst to them,” Elsa Eli Waithe, a co-founder of the campaign, told Reuters.

“Once I typically give people the information about the street that they did not know, there’s an immediate reaction — typically of surprise, shock, repulsion.”

Waithe added, “I think if more people knew what their street was named for, or who it was named for, we can then foster another conversation about what it looks like to name and claim your neighborhood.”

slave-owner campaign
The group has distributed about 1,000 stickers in public places as a part of their “Slavers of New York” educational campaign.
Reuters

Black-owned, Brooklyn-based sticker shop Comik Ink produces the stickers, organizers said.

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