Subsequently the Constitution sanctioned and protected the institution without referring to it. Three years after the Revolution was over, the abolitionist movement began to grow. One third of the total population of Kings County was still enslaved.
The anti-slavery movement gained momentum in the late eighteenth century in the North. Anti-slavery was a class campaigh to give equal rights and freedom to the Black slave. White andBlack organizations which had been created to provide for education and financial assistance to slaves.
John Jay, a prominent Brooklyn aristocrat, purchased and set slaves free after teaching them how to earn a living. The middle class thought of the abolition of slavery as the perfect antecedent for their recent struggle for independence.
For many years, the Quakers had been staunch opponents of slavery, and John Woolman and Eliha Coleman, raised their voices against the institution in the mid-eighteenth century.
However, the Dutch of Kings County disagreed. New York City newspapers were also against slavery. They printed articles which kept the issue of slavery before the public and increased the pressure for emancipation.
In 1785, a bill was presented to the State Assembly of New York for the gradual emancipation of slaves. It gave freedom to children born to slave women after 1785. However, this legislation failed because the Assembly still questioned the validity of giving the Black man freedom with political and social rights.
The failure to pass this bill intensified anti-slavery legislation. The same year, a bill was passed which stopped the importation of slaves. In 1788, the anti-slavery movement was still growing. Manumission became legal, allowing masters to manumit slaves without posting a bond. The stipulation was that a slave had to be under fifty years of age and able to support him self. The most powerful thrust for Black equality in New York, was the New York Manumission Society.
The organization, formed in 1785, supported the emancipation bill.
It's first presidents, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, involved the Society with numerous petitions fighting the importation of slaves from Africa and the exportation of slaves to the South.
In 1790, two years after manumission became legal, only 3 percent of the Blacks in Kings County were free, and 60 percent of the 3 households owned slaves.
The first slave set free in the town of Brooklyn,was in 1797, two years before the legal repeal of slavery. Economic and social changes occurred in the state that helpled to end slavery.
The second half of the eighteenth century was marked by a child birth rate as well as by a sharp rise in white immigration from other colonies.
Consequently, the supply of free labor increased more rapidly than the availability of slaves. By 1771, the ratio of Black slaves to whites in the total population had declined to its' lowest point in 68 years.
During the next fifteen years,the free populationincreased about 47 percent, while the slave population decreased about 5 percent. Due to the rapid increase in the free population and the cost of purchase and maintenance of a slave, slavery was no longer considered an economical system of labor.
The legal extinction of slavery began in 1799, when the legislature passed a statute abolishing slavery through a system of gradual manumission. As of March 29, 1799, alll children born to slave women, were to become free, the males at the age of 25.
Later in 1817, every slave born before July 4, 1799, was free as of July 4, 1827.
Slave labor was still in use in Kings County from 1771 to 1800.
The influx of free labour did not cause a marked decrease in the slave population; it remained at 33 percent and only began to decrease in the early nineteenth century.
Freedom: By 1820, 50 percent of the Black population in Kings County was free.
Blacks in Brooklyn had to settle for menial jobs as coachmen, gardeners or cooks. The Black freedmen was excluded from most of the skilled occupations. However, some were able to find work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which created competition with Irish immigrants.
For the most part, Blacks could not secure work and remained economically deprived. Emancipation had freed them from control of individual masters, but left them in bondage to white society.
Courtesy of Prof. Y. Nuruddin and the able scholar Mario Drummonds.