In 1644, eleven Africans petitioned the New Amsterdam Council and Willem Kieft, the colony's Director General, for their freedom. Their names were Paulo Angolo, Big Manuel, Little Manuel, Manuel de Gerrit de Reus, Simon Congo, Anthony Portuguese, Gracia, Piter Santomee, Jan Francisco, Little Antony and Jan Fort Orange. They had come from the mixed African-European (creole) world of coastal Africa and the Caribbean. Kieft freed the men and their wives, giving them plots of land to farm but they had to pay a tax every year and they had to work for the colony when asked. Worst of all, their children remained slaves.

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From the Dutch colonial council minutes, 1644. Courtesy New York State Archives, Albany. Close