Skip to main content

In the Shadow of Slavery

African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863

With a New Afterword by the Author

In the Shadow of Slavery

African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863

With a New Afterword by the Author
A new edition of a classic work revealing the little-known history of African Americans in New York City before Emancipation.

Popular understanding of the history of slavery in America has a crucial gap: It almost entirely ignores its extensive reach in the North. But the cities of the North were built by—and became the home of—tens of thousands of enslaved African Americans, many of whom would continue to live there as free people after Emancipation.

In the Shadow of Slavery turns to New York City to reveal the history of African Americans in the nation’s largest city. Drawing on extensive travel accounts, autobiographies, newspapers, literature, and organizational records, Leslie M. Harris extends beyond prior studies of racial discrimination by tracing the undeniable impact of African Americans on class, politics, and community formation and by offering vivid portraits of the lives and aspirations of countless black New Yorkers. This new edition includes an afterword by the author addressing subsequent research and the ongoing arguments about how slavery and its legacy should be taught, memorialized, and acknowledged by government.


“This is an absolutely superior work of social history. . . . Thoroughly researched, perceptively analyzed, cleverly argued, beautifully written.”

Nikki Taylor | Journal of African American History

“For its treatment of antebellum class relations and urban community development, Harris’ In the Shadow of Slavery ought to become a staple of undergraduate reading lists for several years to come.”

Scott Mittenberger | Journal of Social History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1. Slavery in Colonial New York
Chapter 2. The Struggle against Slavery in Revolutionary and Early National New York
Chapter 3. Creating a Free Black Community in New York City during the Era of Emancipation
Chapter 4. Free but Unequal: The Limits of Emancipation
Chapter 5. Keeping Body and Soul Together: Charity Workers and Black Activism in Post-emancipation New York City
Chapter 6. The Long Shadow of Southern Slavery: Radical Abolitionists and Black Political Activism against Slavery and Racism
Chapter 7. “Pressing Forward to Greater Perfection”: Radical Abolitionists, Black Labor, and Black Working-Class Activism after 1840
Chapter 8. “Rulers of the Five Points”: Blacks, Irish Immigrants, and Amalgamation
Chapter 9. The Failures of the City
Afterword (2023)
Works Consulted

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press