Oh Freedom! Timeline

Timeline of slavery and abolition in New York State.

1627

The first enslaved people arrive in Dutch New Amsterdam (New York City)

The first enslaved people arrive in Dutch New Amsterdam (New York City).
1776

Declaration of Independence is published without addressing enslavement.

Declaration of Independence is published without addressing enslavement.
1777

New York adopts its first state constitution, omitting language in support of gradual emancipation that had been included in early drafts.

New York adopts its first state constitution, omitting language in support of gradual emancipation that had been included in early drafts.
1785

New York Manumission Society formed by men advocating for the end of slavery even though many members were slave owners.

New York Manumission Society formed by men advocating for the end of slavery even though many members were slave owners.
1787

United States Constitution approved. It included an end date for U.S. participation in the international slave trade while also including protection for the rights of slaveholders.

United States Constitution approved. It included an end date for U.S. participation in the international slave trade while also including protection for the rights of slaveholders.
1788

New York makes it illegal to sell slaves in the state who were imported from outside the state but does not preclude the sale of enslaved people from within New York.

New York makes it illegal to sell slaves in the state who were imported from outside the state but does not preclude the sale of enslaved people from within New York.
1790

The first Federal Census documents New York’s enslaved population. At 21,193, New York has the largest number of slaves in the North.

The first Federal Census documents New York’s enslaved population. At 21,193, New York has the largest number of slaves in the North.
1799

New York’s “Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” becomes law, promising freedom in the future to the children of enslaved people in the state.

New York’s “Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” becomes law, promising freedom in the future to the children of enslaved people in the state.
1817

New York’s Gradual Emancipation Law is enacted. It declared that men and women enslaved prior to July 4, 1799 (not just their children) would become free on July 4, 1827

New York’s Gradual Emancipation Law is enacted. It declared that men and women enslaved prior to July 4, 1799 (not just their children) would become free on July 4, 1827
1821

In anticipation of the freedom of enslaved Black men, a revised NYS Constitution limits voting rights for free Black men by requiring them to have a minimum of $250 in real property.

In anticipation of the freedom of enslaved Black men, a revised NYS Constitution limits voting rights for free Black men by requiring them to have a minimum of $250 in real property.
1827

On July 4, 1827, abolition of slavery in New York takes effect. However, some freed people remain under indenture to their former owners.

On July 4, 1827, abolition of slavery in New York takes effect. However, some freed people remain under indenture to their former owners.
1850

The Fugitive Slave Act was passed endangering formerly enslaved and free Black people who could now be legally captured and returned to former enslavers.

The Fugitive Slave Act was passed endangering formerly enslaved and free Black people who could now be legally captured and returned to former enslavers.

Download a printable version of a timeline here.

This timeline was developed through a joint project of Celebrating the African Spirit and the Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project called Oh, Freedom!  Additional thanks to Vassar College’s Good Neighbors Partnerships for support on this project.

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