"One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner. . . . and simply remember the things we regard as credible and inspiring. The difficulty of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth."
-W.E.B. Du Bois


Although the predominant perception of early African Americans in the United States tends to conjure up images of a shackled existence on Southern plantations, the story of the African American presence in Hudson Valley history remains comparatively untold. Just as countless black hands worked the red clay fields of Southern farms, so too did African slaves churn the rich, fertile soils of the New York flats. It remains a hypocrisy in our condemnation of slavery in the South, that we too built our society on the backs of a subjugated people. While New York played a major role in the trading of coffee, sugar, and tobacco, our state also played a crucial role in the trafficking of human life.

It is our obligation and our goal to illuminate the roots of the African American presence in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and to reveal the realities of the critical but subservient role African Americans played in colonial and antebellum society in this region. Through Photographs, Bills of Sale, Last Wills of Testament, Inventories, Vendues, Runaway Slave Notices, Court Cases, Slave Law Codes, Journals, Ledgers, and Correspondences, we can gain a deeper understanding of Slavery in New York in general and of the experiences and fates of specific African Americans. As part of the missing chapter in the book of the African American experience, the stories told here provide a glimpse of the collective heritage some of us seek to find, and that none of us should ever forget.