Team Reporting: The Legacy of Slavery on Long Island

  • April 2, 2021
Team Reporting: The Legacy of Slavery on Long Island

This collection of pieces, reported and created by School of Communication and Journalism students, examines the lasting legacy of slavery on Long Island. The pieces aired on WSHU, a local NPR affiliate station.

Enslaved Island: Its History and Legacy on Long Island

staircase painted with the names of enslaved people

By Felicia Lalomia, Brianne Ledda, Antonia Brogna

Students at Stony Brook University on Long Island look at the history, and ramifications, of slavery on Long Island through this podcast.

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Slavery on Long Island: The History we Forgot to Remember

Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island

By Brianne Ledda, Wilko Martinez-Cachero, Vaidik Trivedi, Taylor Beglane

The arrival of the first enslaved people in Suffolk County in 1654 marks only the beginning of a long, often intentionally ignored, chapter in Long Island history. 

Long Island was home to the largest population of enslaved people in the northern colonies. Nathaniel Sylvester brought Suffolk County’s first enslaved people to Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island in 1654, starting the first of the few plantations on Long Island. 

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It’s Complicated: Identity and the Descendants of Long Island’s Enslaved People

Member of the Shinnecock Nation

By Desiree D’Iorio, Isabelle Desilier, Megan Valle

Long Island knows little about its history of slavery, let alone that Native Americans were also part of it.

At the Shinnecock reservation in Southampton, indigenous people work hard to preserve the history and culture that has faced many trials throughout the years. 

Shane Weeks is a proud member of the Shinnecock Nation and has learned a lot about his ancestry, including its ties to slavery. It’s complicated.

Shane has Native American, African American and Scottish ancestry. He can trace back his Long Island roots back nearly 12 generations.

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Gentrification: As Old as Long Island Itself

aerial view of Long Island suburb

By Taylor Beglane, Antonio Brogna, Katherine Hoey

Over a century has passed since there were enslaved people on Long Island, but communities are still impacted by its legacies. Signs of segregation still exist nearly 60 years after the segregation era ended. 

Debbie Willett first began working in Hofstra University’s Special Collections department in the ‘80s. Many people visited her library to read census records, looking for mentions of their ancestors.

Willett, who is Black, always knew her family had lived in the hamlet of Oyster Bay for generations. With the library’s entire collection at her fingertips, she began looking for her own ancestry. 

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What Could Reparations Look Like?

slavery shackles

By Gary Ghayrat, Margaret Osborne, Kiara Thomas

After the Civil War, millions of freed enslaved people were left without land or money to build a future. Now, 200 years after slavery was officially abolished in New York, a controversial bill sits in committee that would study reparations for descendants of slaves. Even among supporters of reparations, there’s debate over what should be done to remedy hundreds of years of injustices. 

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