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Letter to the Editor 8/17: Teach Nisky kids about slavery in NY

Letter to the Editor 8/17: Teach Nisky kids about slavery in NY

Teach Nisky kids about slavery in NY

I graduated from Craig Elementary School and Van Antwerp Middle School. When I attended these schools, I never considered for whom these schools are named.
I’ve recently learned from census documents digitized for the New York Slavery Records Index that the Craigs and Van Antwerps owned dozens of slaves until at least 1820. Because the next census wasn’t until 1830, it’s at least possible these families owned slaves until 1827, when slavery was finally abolished in New York.
It’s astonishing to learn that the wealth and prestige someone needed to get a school named after him in my hometown was earned, at least in part, by enslaved human beings. Growing up in Niskayuna, I didn’t learn about the slavery that once existed here or the celebrations that erupted when slavery finally ended in New York.
Therefore, I’m asking for something I didn’t have: a curriculum for Niskayuna students that engages with the people who survived enslavement in New York to thrive.
There are famous examples, such as the Dutch-speaking, abolitionist, women’s rights activist and itinerant preacher Sojourner Truth. Yet, I hope research in archives like the New York Slavery Records will reveal others, more local, and lesser known. I also hope research will reveal the allies who helped them.
I’m confident that students, aided by teachers like I had, will be able to research and write the history of our town in rich and intimate detail, unflinching and truthful, and learn from it.
Paul L. Hebert
Queens, formerly of Niskayuna

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