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Paper 1 - Patrick Campbell History of NYC Urban Freedoms...

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Patrick Campbell History of NYC 9/30/07 Urban Freedoms and Dangers As Present in Antebellum New York City The antebellum period of United States history was a time of great societal change as immigrants started pouring into American cities. While most of these immigrants came from across the Atlantic, there were many men and women that journeyed to the urban centers from rural regions across the country. It was at this time that American truly became a “melting pot” of people and cultures, and nowhere was this more apparent than New York City. The city offered an endless array of opportunities for individuals from all walks of life. By the 1830’s New York had surpassed Boston and Philadelphia as the leading commercial and cultural center of America. Men and women, both black and white, were able to leave their pasts behind and start a new life in this urban center. Despite the endless array of opportunities New York offered, these were not evenly distributed throughout society. Men had a much different idea of what freedoms they could enjoy compared with women, and the same can be said for whites compared with blacks. Nevertheless, the freedom of city life was also wrought with potential dangers. These dangers ranged from criminal acts such as burglary and murder to cultural dangers like alcoholism and licentiousness. Each group of society came into contact with these problems to varying degrees and had different approaches on how to survive urban life. The social group that enjoyed the most change during this period is the African Americans. By the beginning of the third decade of the 19 th century, the city was finally 1
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free of slavery. The practice had been finally abolished in the city on July 4, 1827, freeing thousands of slaves throughout Manhattan. While this event was a watershed in New York’s history, the plight of the black people did not immediately improve overnight. “Once free, the majority of black people became members of New York’s nascent working class. Limited to low wages or street hustling, life in freedom was often difficult and precarious – but it was not slavery.” 1 This was a key point for black New Yorkers, because, no matter how bad their lives were, they were at least free. The idea of freedom for a slave in New York City is much different from his
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Paper 1 - Patrick Campbell History of NYC Urban Freedoms...

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