The New York Times has a report on the reply sent by William Jay Gaynor, the outspoken Mayor of New York, to a colored man, James D. Howe, who wrote “asking to be put on the committee which is to arrange for the 300th anniversary of the settlement of Manhattan Island.”
Politely demurring, in his reply letter the Mayor shared an choice anecdote with his correspondent, and kindly provided a copy to the New York Times so all could learn of it:
Dear Mr. Howe: Your letter of Jan. 16 suggesting that one of the negro race be put on the committee for the celebration of the three-hundredth anniversary of the settlement of Manhattan Island is at hand. You remind me that shortly after the arrival of the first settlers the first negro slaves were brought here and sold at auction at the old stockade. . . . [S]lavery existed in the State of New York when Lincoln was born in 1809, and was not abolished until 1827 . . . .
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I knew out in Flatbush, now a part of Brooklyn, an old woman who was owned as a slave there when she was young. Her name was Maria Jackson. She died at the age of 105 years a few years ago. Her husband had also been a slave. I often talked with her on the subject, and she said her life as a slave was happy and that they were all well treated.