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libertyHappy Crispus Attucks Week! This celebration is not to be confused with the mysterious Catholic holiday of Christo Redentor Week nor the Proustian French literature feast known as Roger Shattuck Week. For more on the legacy of Crispus Attucks, see both Combat Jack with a cautionary Cornell tale as wild as any in Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me (1966), and his confrere Dallas Penn, who also tells the story of black California surfer Nick Gabaldon (1927-1951). The Revolutionary  War isn’t my field of expertise as a public historian but I’ll assume their sources came correct. I do, however, know a little something about both the streets of Brooklyn— including Crispus Attucks Elementary School aka P.S. 21 on Chauncey Street and Crispus Attucks Playground at Fulton and Classon— and also the streets that once were woods, swamps and fields.

Kings County Fun Fact: While Crispus Attucks was getting all riled up by British rule in Boston in the winter of 1770, most black folks in the towns which would form today’s Brooklyn were slaves. Indeed, as late as 1800, one in three residents of Kings County were chattel. New York State’s 1799 Gradual Abolition of Slavery Act was a nice gesture (key word: “gradual”) but as I noted in “When The East Is In The House,” my piece on Brooklyn’s Highland Park neighborhood for Forgotten New York:

Lest there be any confusion over the labor of Brooklyn’s Dutch and English forebears, Alter F. Landesman’s A History of New Lots (1977) usefully offers 1820 Census data. The Teunis Schenck household then comprised 11 people and seven slaves; Isaac Snediker, their neighbor, had a family of five, and possessed six slaves.

It’s highly likely, by the way, that these black Brooklynites spoke Dutch, or were bilingual. Speaking in tongues, St. Marks Avenue’s finest, M.O.P., starring in “How About Some Hardcore,” or, as it appears to me, “Crispus Attucks’ Revenge”—

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWcfmkslT48[/youtube]

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