Jan Luyken - Two men pointing at a boy - Rijksmuseum

Two men pointing at a boy, 1711. Engraving by Jan Luyken (Dutch). Rijksmuseum.

The New Paltz Historic Documents Project contains numerous references to the practice of slavery in New Paltz and Ulster County.

Practiced in what is now New York as early as 1626, the institution of slavery was not legally abolished in the state until two centuries later, in 1827. By the middle of the 18th century, New York had the largest enslaved population of any non-plantation British North American colony. Slavery was well-established in New Paltz by this time, having been instituted by the founding families since the town’s inception in 1677. A 1755 census lists twenty-eight enslavers in New Paltz owning a total of seventy-eight people over the age of fourteen. Most enslavers owned between one and four people. Enslaved people in the Hudson Valley served as agricultural laborers, household servants, and skilled workers. On family farms, they usually worked side by side with their enslavers, whether in the field or in the household. The enslaved also lived in close proximity to their enslavers, mostly in attics or cellars on smaller farms. Just after the Revolutionary War, enslaved people comprised over thirteen percent of the New Paltz population. There is no doubt that the labor of enslaved Africans over the course of a century and a half contributed significantly to the building of the community and the prosperity of each of the town’s founding families.

Numerous documents relating to the history of enslavement appear in the New Paltz Historic Documents Project and have supported the following research.

Tracing the Lives of Individual Enslaved People 

Sadly, the names of individual enslaved people are not always provided in the documents. However, when a name is given, an individual's life and experience can sometimes be traced over several years. These names include James (enslaved by Jonathan Deyo). More names coming soon. 

Society of Negroes Unsettled

The Society of Negroes Unsettled': a history of slavery in New Paltz, NY

An article by former HHS Executive Director and Archivist Eric J. Roth, published in Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, vol. 27, no. 1, Jan. 2003, pp. 27+). Copies of the article may be available through Gale.com. Contact your local public or university library. To view the document from which the article gets its title, click here

Where Slavery Died Hard

Where Slavery Died Hard: The Forgotten History of Ulster County and the Shawangunk Mountain Region 

Video by Cragsmoor Historical Society, 2018. Wendy Harris and Arnold Pickman, writer/directors; Walter Alvarez, producer; Maureen Radl, associate producer. Click here to watch on YouTube

Research Projects