27 August 2016

Should New York Change Its Name?

After all, "New York" is named after James II of England (the Duke of York). And, as Wikipedia notes:
The Royal African Company was a mercantile company set up by the Stuart family and London merchants to trade along the west coast of Africa. It was led by James, Duke of York, Charles II's brother. Its original purpose was to exploit the gold fields up the Gambia River identified by Prince Rupert during the Interregnum, and it was set up once Charles II gained the English throne in the Restoration of 1660. However, it was soon engaged in the slave trade as well as with other commodities.
And this . . .
In the 1680s the Company was transporting about 5,000 slaves a year across the Atlantic. Many were branded with the letters 'DY', for its Governor, the Duke of York, who succeeded his brother on the throne in 1685, becoming King James II. Other slaves were branded with the company's initials, RAC, on their chests.
Between 1672 and 1689, the Company transported 90,000 to 100,000 slaves.
I am quite confident that since several Civil War bloggers and historians moral reformers were so delighted to see Vanderbilt take steps to begin the process of sandblasting a building (which is on the National Register of Historic places), they will no doubt now turn their focus to a target just as deserving of cleansing: everything named "New York."


Mark Snell said...

I did not realize that the structure is on the National Register, although I had a suspicion that it might be. That's a significant game changer, and opens a whole slew of legal issues relating to historic preservation. As an aside, Richard, I really wish you would refrain from making sweeping generalizations about professional historians/academics, despite that you might be correct in many cases. Gentlemen need to rise above name calling. Nevertheless, it is your blog, not mine.

Phil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

To the person whose comment I deleted:

Nothing personal and I do appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. However, I've made it a policy not to post personal contact information unless requested or permission is granted.

Mark Snell said...


There was absolutely NO personal contact information, other than my name, which I always include (instead of a pseudonym), in my message that you failed to post. The sad thing is, I agreed with you about the intricacies of Confederate Hall's designation on the National Register and the legal issues surrounding historic preservation law. All I asked was that you, as a gentleman, refrain from painting academic historians with a broad brush and decease your name calling and labeling. I suspect this message won't see the light of day, either.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Mark - it wasn't your comment I deleted. If you'll go back and read the place where the comment appeared, you can see, the person's first name is "Phil."

I did, however, overlook your comment. That was not intentional and your comment has now been posted. I apologize. Again, it was not intentional.

My sweeping generalizations about professional historians/academics are no more sweeping than what I read on the blogs of those same folks when they speak in disdain of those who honor their Confederate ancestors. Call it tit for tat.

Moreover, there are those within academia making those same generalizations:

". . . the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars." ~ Professor Gordon S. Wood

". . . the new generation of historians has devoted itself to isolating and recovering stories of the dispossessed: the women kept in dependence; the American Indians shorn of their lands; the black slaves brought in chains from Africa. Consequently, much of their history is fragmentary and essentially anachronistic—condemning the past for not being more like the present. It has no real interest in the pastness of the past. These historians see themselves as moral critics obligated to denounce the values of the past in order to somehow reform our present." ~ Professor Gordon S. Wood

"Not only does the history these moral reformers write invert the proportions of what happened in the past, but it is incapable of synthesizing the events of the past. It is inevitably partial, with little or no sense of the whole. If the insensitive treatment of women, American Indians, and African slaves is not made central to the story, then, for them, the story is too celebratory. Since these historians are not really interested in the origins of the nation, they have difficulty writing any coherent national narrative at all, one that would account for how the United States as a whole came into being." ~ Professor Gordon S. Wood

I could go on (Wood is not the only one - just the most recent/prominent). Modern academic historians (as a group) have brought the criticism on themselves (as Wood very succinctly points out). It's more than well-deserved.

While I respect your opinion and you're welcome to post any rebuttal you'd like and while I understand and acknowledge there are exceptions to my generalizations, I will not be refraining any time soon.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Mark - to your point, "that's a significant game-changer", I would agree, but apparently not. I do not recall reading of any professional historian saying, "Hey, wait a minute, this deserves more careful consideration."

Oh no, they're silent because this fits the agenda. You are a bit behind on these issues Mark, one blog you read and comment often on has even cautioned the NPS about allowing the CBF at battle reenactments.

You see, it's not about history, it's about the agenda.

Mark Snell said...

Well, then I guess you do not consider me a professional historian. That's OK. I point out bias on all blogs that I read. Kevin and I just had a little row this past weekend. History is about objectivity. But because we are humans, emotion tends to get in the way of objectivity. I am guilty of it myself. We all are. And I do not comment often on blogs. All of my publishing deadlines recently have been met and I have a bit of down time to blow off steam. It won't last for long, and soon I'll go back to reading blogs instead of commenting on them.

I "hated" Gordon Wood when I was in grad school. It seemed to take me forever to plow through and understand _The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787_. It still sits above my computer table, taunting me on what an inadequate political and intellectual historian I am. I leave it there for that reason alone.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Mark - certainly I consider you a professional historian. Not all of you are SJW's. ;-)

But your objection only came up during this conversation. I was speaking in terms of what I've (not) seen up to now.

I do appreciate your input and perspective.

Ralph Steel said...

Don't forget that NY began gradual emancipation in 1785 and while not prefect the state did not raise arms against the United States in the defense of slavery.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks for clarifying Ralph. All is forgiven.

Ralph Steel said...

Good to hear...