August 2

Who was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Aug 2 - 8:2:1770 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (August 2, 1770).

“A Parcel of young healthy NEW NEGROES.”

A woodcut that crudely depicted four figures, presumably enslaved men, women, and children, adorned an advertisement in the August 2, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal.  One of the few visual images in that issue, the woodcut likely drew attention to the advertisement, despite its shortcomings.  Its presence in the New-York Journal testifies to the presence of enslaved people and the operations of the transatlantic slave trade in New York in the era of the American Revolution.  Colonists encountered enslaved people as they went about their daily activities in the busy port.  They also encountered representations of enslaved people in the public prints as well as an even greater number of notices about enslaved people that consisted entirely of text.  John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal and an enslaver himself, aided in perpetuating slavery in America and the transatlantic slave trade by publishing advertisements offering enslaved people for sale and notices promising rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves.

The advertisement featuring the woodcut announced the arrival of “NEW NEGROES” in the colony.  Comprised of “Men, Women, Boys, and Girls” ranging in age from ten to twenty-two, these “NEW NEGROES” arrived in New York directly from Africa.  The advertisement did not indicate where in Africa, nor did it specify how many enslaved men, women, and children survived the Middle Passage.  The Slave Voyages database estimates that this “Parcel of young healthy NEW NEGROES” consisted of 103 enslaved people who made it to New York.  (See Voyage #37023.)  An estimated fifteen died during the transatlantic crossing, but such advertisements never revealed that information.  Instead, they focused solely on assuring prospective buyers that the people they treated as commodities were indeed “healthy” and thus a sound investment.

According to the Slave Voyages database, three vessels transported an estimated 376 enslaved people to New York in 1770.  The brigantine Elliot featured in this advertisement was just one of those vessels.  The advertisement placed in the New-York Journal at the culmination of the Elliot’s voyage represented only a fraction of the slave trade undertaken in New York at the time.