Sharing spaces in a new world environment: African-Dutch contributions to North American culture, 1626-1826
Mosterman, Andrea C.
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This dissertation examines the origins and development of cultural practices and traditions that emanated from African and Dutch interactions in Early New York between 1626 and 1826. The Dutch first settled this region in 1624, and by 1626 enslaved Africans had arrived in the colony. Beginning with these earliest encounters, the lives of African and Dutch descendants in this region became intertwined: African and Dutch Americans lived, worked, celebrated, and often times worshipped together. Examination of the interactions between Dutch and African descendants in the home, the church, the court, the workplace, and the public space shows that by sharing these spaces they substantially influenced each other's ways of life. This dissertation argues that exchanges and interactions between African and Dutch descendants in Early New York brought about new practices and traditions that are particular to the Dutch American communities in the region. Scholars have acknowledged the distinctive character of the region's culture, but thus far historians have not investigated the ways in which African and Dutch descendants influenced each other culturally, or how the African presence and the institution of slavery shaped Dutch American society. In particular, historians have not thoroughly interrogated the Dutch and the African narratives as a way to reconstruct this shared history. This study brings these two narratives together through its focus on African and Dutch exchanges in New York's Dutch American communities. Through investigation of both Dutch and English primary sources located in archives in the United States and Europe-such as the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Collegiate Church Archives, the Gilder Lehrman Collection, and the Reformed Church of America Archives-this research uncovered a wide range of materials crucial to reconstructing New York's past. By incorporating these Dutch and English materials and integrating the Dutch and African narrative, this dissertation brings a more profound perspective to this part of American History. While the dissertation focuses on Dutch American communities, the close examination of cultural exchanges in a colonial society provides an important contribution to our understanding of the origins and developments of Early American cultures in general.
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