Decentering Early New York City’s History

AHA Session 293
Monday, January 6, 2020: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Nassau West (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Benjamin L. Carp, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Early American Jews in and about Manhattan
John M. Dixon, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Remapping the History of Dutch New Yorkers
Joyce D. Goodfriend, University of Denver
Benjamin L. Carp, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Session Abstract

As we come closer to what undoubtedly will be celebrated by settler descendants (literal and figurative) as the 400th anniversary of the founding of New York in 1624, it is fitting that we subject traditional narratives of the city’s early history to scrutiny. Recent academic and popular renditions of urban life on Manhattan before 1830 have made it clear that Anglophile and elite-driven storylines failed to capture the full complexity and diversity of the city in its earliest centuries. But how should that past be retold? Our approach in this panel is to deliberately decenter the history of early New York City by imagining how a series of counter-narratives that place ordinarily peripheralized groups at the forefront might transform our understanding of historical development on Manhattan. Far from conducting a pedagogical exercise, we endeavor first to bring heretofore unknown actors out of the shadows, and second to put on the table remedies for filling the voids—silences and omissions—that currently distort the ways we tell New York City’s history.
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