2027 – NY State Abolition Bicentennial

Slavery began in New York State in 1626. New York had one of the largest populations of enslaved people in the North. They were instrumental in shaping the infrastructure, economy, and culture of the Hudson Valley during the colonial and early national period. The labor of enslaved Africans and the sale of their bodies created great wealth for white merchants, businessmen, and farmers throughout the state. It took 200 years before it was legally abolished.

1827 marked the end of legal slavery in New York, though many barriers to full emancipation remained. The Bicentennial in 2027 provides us with an opportunity to share the history and brave struggle for freedom and abolition in our state while recognizing that there is still much to be done to support a fair and just future for all.

MHAHP is dedicated to commemoration of this Bicentennial through our work and in collaboration with organizations throughout the state.

Oh, Freedom!
Oh, Freedom is a project to promote an understanding of the history of slavery and freedom movements in New York State and to connect that history to the ongoing fight for justice today. It was developed through a collaboration between the Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project and Celebrating the African Spirit (CAS). For more information contact:
info@mhahp.vassarspaces.net

Freedom 2027
Freedom 2027 is a project of the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State. MHAHP is a member of the consortium which is creating a clearinghouse for sharing and publicizing local, regional, and statewide activities about the upcoming Bicentennial. For more information:       https://www.urcnys.org/freedom2027

The Oh, Freedom! Timeline: Celebrating the African Spirit and the Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project developed two timelines of the struggle for abolition in New York State.

Download Printable Timeline

Check out the virtual NY State Abolition Timeline

Emancipation, Then and Now

THEN: William Hamilton, from his Emancipation Address, delivered at the African Zion Church, New York City, July 4, 1827.


LIBERTY! Kind goddess! Brightest of the heavenly deities that guide the affairs of men. O Liberty! Where thou art resisted and irritated, thou art terrible as the raging sea, and dreadful as a tornado. But where thou are listened to, and obeyed, thou art gentle as the purling stream that meanders through the mead: as soft and as cheerful as the zephyrs that dance upon the summer’s breeze, and as bounteous as autumn’s harvest.

THE AFRICANS ARE RESTORED!  No more shall the accursed name of slave be attached to us – no more shall negro and slave be synonymous [sic] …. This day has the state of New-York regenerated herself – this day has she been cleansed of a most foul, poisonous and damnable stain.  I stand amazed at the quiet, yet rapid progress the principles of liberty have made.

NOW: David Gellman, Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006, p. 223.


“The bicentennial of the activation of New York’s gradual abolition act passed with little fanfare in July 1999, perhaps a reflection of the ambiguous history behind that anniversary…. Time will tell whether July 4, 2027, will be another forgotten anniversary.  What is certain is that American history was fundamentally altered by the process of gradual abolition in the North, creating a story driven by and inescapable discourse of slavery and freedom.”

“The story carries important lessons for today as well.  We have witnessed the breathtaking multiplication of the sites and the speed of discourse and yet our world still very much needs to be remade in the name of justice and equality.  Change, of course, depends as much or more on what people do as what they say.  Yet if history is any guide, we will have to construct our world out of liberating discourses or the globalization of human rights surely will continue to elude us.”

See also the important address commemorating abolition, by Nathaniel Paul, antislavery activist, delivered in Albany on July 5, 1827.  

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