After I moved back to New York last winter, I went for a walk in Lower Manhattan, and saw this sign posted on the corner of Wall and Water Streets. Two short paragraphs of text and a small sepia image refer to the site where eighteenth-century New Yorkers bought and sold enslaved people of African and Indigenous descent—the Municipal Slave Market.

I started learning more about it because, even though I grew up here, I didn’t know that there had been a slave market on Wall Street. I didn’t know that enslaved people actually built that wall. Like a lot of people, I was surprised to learn the deep reaches of slavery in this island colony.

Wall and Water is an audio essay about freedom and rebellion in New York, and was produced as episode 7 of Reconnaissance.


Wall and Water was produced by Asa Mendelsohn and Fred Schmidt-Arenales. It was released on September 29, 2016.

Featuring conversations with:

Ana Lucia Araujo, Professor of History at Howard University, Author of, among other works, Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage, and Slavery (2014) and Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (2012), as well as the site A Historian’s Views: Digital arts and humanities in the age of presentism.
Chris Cobb, Artist and writer based in Brooklyn.
Leslie M. Harris, Professor of History at Northwestern University, Author of, among other works, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.
Prithi Kanakamedala, Public historian and Assistant Professor of History and Bronx Community College, Historian and Curator for Brooklyn Abolitionists, part of In Pursuit of Freedom at the Brooklyn Historical Society, and Researcher and Writer for Place Matters.
Christopher Moore, Historian, retired Curator at the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, former Commissioner for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Amaka Okechukwu, Oral Historian and Associate Archivist at the Weeksville Heritage Center.
Kamau Ware, Artist and visual storyteller based in Brooklyn, Lead Creative of Black Gotham Experience.
Jumaane Williams, New York City Councilman representing the 45th District.

Also featuring:
“EVP Bomb” from the digital album Rich Kit[hen by Geo Wyeth (©2015 Geo Wyeth)
“No Police State Song” by No Police State Girl (Carla Cubit)
And excerpts from the Black Lives Matter meeting moderated by Carlene Pinto, which FSA recorded at Union Square, NYC, July 7, 2016. You can listen to the full recording of the meeting here.