To the editor:
(re: “They built this homestead, but didn’t have a choice,” April 22)
I was struck by the omission of the word “African” to describe the enslaved people held by the Van Cortlandt family.
The author clearly describes the “European” origin of the slaveholders, giving them an assumed hierarchy to those they exploited and used as chattel. This benign attitude — that slavery was incidental to the building of this country — perpetuates the myth of willing immigrants coming to America for a better life.
The nameless men, women and children who were enslaved, ripped of their culture, language and dignity before emancipation worked on the Van Cortlandt plantation and other enterprises in the area without compensation or inheritance of the wealth generated by their blood and tears.
I hope the Enslaved People Project and the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance will tell the true story of what happened at that place. And it will tell the hardships endured by people of African origin and Indigenous people who lived on that land before 1630.
As a native New Yorker who attended public schools, I remember the painful 30 minutes of my lesson in elementary school of slavery in the United States, and the fast-forward to post-Civil War America.
We should be teaching the reality of how enslaved people were forced to live, and their resilience in the face of evil so such a thing never happens again in humanity.