In 1712, as a result of its involvement in trade with the Caribbean, New York City had a large population of enslaved Africans. Conditions in the city were somewhat different than those for enslaved Africans on large plantation or in isolated rural areas. Many Africans lived in a concentrated area where they had some freedom of movement and could mete with each other. They also lived and worked in close proximity to free and indentured Whites
While the historical record has many gaps, there is a generally accepted narrative of events by Governor Robert Hunter. The revolt involved twenty-three African and number of indigenous Americans, who gathered on the night of April 6, 1712. They were armed with guns, hatchets, and swords and set fire to a building in the middle of town. When White colonists tried to extinguish the blaze the Africans attached them. At least nine Whites were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death and another six were wounded. Militia units from New York and Westchester and soldiers from a fort at the foot of Manhattan responded to the insurrection and twenty-seven Africans were captured. Twenty-one were executed, some of whom were burned a lived, and six are reported as having committed suicide. Shortly after the rebellion, New York’s legislature toughened its slave codes. Africans gathering in groups of three or more, found with a firearm or gambling would be whipped. Property crimes, rape and involvement in a consp8iracy to kill were punishable by death. Owners were given great leeway in punishing enslaved Africans.
The details of this revolt are provided by Robert Hunter, who was the governor of New York and New Jersey from 1710 to 1719. In a letter to the Lords of Trade in London written three months after the insurrection, Gov. Hunter describes the slave revolt.
A Letter from Governor Robert Hunter, June 23, 1712