“Education for Black children in Brooklyn grew from the independent efforts of Black religious leaders such as Peter Croger, who had a school in his home in 1815. And in 1819, William M. Read, a graduate of the New York African Free School, was teaching Black children in segregated settings. However by 1827, even these quarters were denied. By 1840, some Manhattan Black folks who had settled in Carsville, just south of Weeksville, had established another African school.” While this community building was going on in Brooklyn, legal slavery was the reality for the vast majority of Africans in the United States. Because it was against the law to teach Africans to read and write (and the penalty for doing so could be death), this learning had to be done in secret places by an exhausted people who had been worked hard in the fields from sunup to sundown. And it was by candlelight that the English language was learned.
More generations of social isolation passed and some of those Africans who remained captured in the South were being called upon to perform more and more responsible tasks on the plantations and in the manufacturing areas. They were used as expert farmers, builders and craftspeople. Brooklyn’s Professor William Mackey noted that the furnishings of
Thomas Jefferson’s mansion were made by slaves. “The house itself was built by them.” Many masters were breeding their personal slaves themselves. Fathering mulatto children who were raised with their white children and often educated with them as well.
The buying and selling of human beings during the American Slave Trade was the biggest business the world has
ever known. In a text on the period, H. A. Texler writes in Slavery in Missouri, 1805-1865, “The slave trade was partly
systematic, partly casual. For local sales, every public auctioneer handled slaves along with other property, and in each
city there were brokers buying them to sell again or handling them on commission. One of these at New Orleans in
1854 was Thomas Foster, who advertised that he would pay the highest prices for sound Negroes as well as sell those
whom merchants or private citizens might consign him. Expecting to receive Negroes throughout the season, he said
he would have a constant stock of mechanics, domestics and field hands; and in addition, he would house as many as
three hundred slaves at a time, for such as were importing them from other states. Similarly, Clark and Grubb, of
Whitehall Street in Atlanta, when advertising their business as wholesale grocers, commission merchants and Negro
brokers, announced that they kept slaves of all classes constantly on hand and were paying the highest market prices
for all that might be offered.” More money was invested in slaves than all stock-in-trade, including bank stock,
incorporated funds and more. This is indicative of the value placed on an unpaid labor pool and with good
The land was virgin territory that had to be worked and built upon. It was the slave workforce that released
the value of the land and made it income-producing. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the first estimate
of national wealth of the United States is found in Economica: A Statistical Manual for the United States of America,
1806 edition by Samuel Blodget, Jr. (See Table 1) Of the $2,505 million dollars ($2.5 billion) of national wealth,
$1,661 million was in land stolen from the indigenous people, and $200 million was the value assigned to the slaves.
Blodget writes, “Slaves are rated too high till they are better managed, everything else is below the mark.” The
Historical Statistics of the United States notes that, “No statement is made by Blodget as to the source material
underlying his tabulations.” And Mr. Blodget, by going out of his way to degrade the worth of the slaves, is telling
us he may have something to hide, so we checked his figures.
Taking the census of 1800 and averaging it with the 1810 census (not available to Mr. Blodget), we find him
pretty accurate, and arrive at a slightly higher figure of 1,042,732 slaves. Mr. Blodget may himself have extrapolated
from the 1800 census. In any event, knowing how much difficulty the Census Bureau had counting the descendants
of the slave population in 1990, we can guess that these census figures are “below the mark.”
Secondly, we turn to American Negro Slavery: A survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro
Labor As Determined by the Plantation Regime by Ulrich Bonnell Phillips (1966 p. 370), and find this: “The
accompanying chart (see below) will show the fluctuations of the average prices of prime field hands (unskilled
young men) in Virginia, at Charleston, in middle Georgia and at New Orleans, as well as the contemporary range of
average prices for cotton of middling grade in the chief American market, that of New York. The range for prime
slaves, it will be seen, rose from about $300 and $400 a head in the upper and lower South, respectively in 1795 to a
range of from $400 to $600 in 1803…” By using these figures we find that the minimum amount of money invested
in slaves was $521,366,000 in 1805. Therefore, the total national wealth could be more accurately calculated as $2.8
billion dollars ($2,826,366,000), adding an additional $300 million to Blodget’s figure. This means that 77% of the
total national wealth of the United States of 1805 ($2,182,366,000) was based on holding African-Americans as
property to work the stolen land.