To be a “farmer” in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Flatbush did not necessarily mean working the land yourself. Enslaved people were central to the growing affluence of Flatbush’s Dutch residents. In 1698, the colonial census recorded that Leffert Pieterse’s household included one man, one woman, nine children, and three slaves. After the New York legislature ended slavery in 1827, some African Americans continued to hold agricultural jobs. Wealthy farmers also relied on the labor of tenants, who lived on and tilled the extensive land holdings of families like the Leffertses.
As Kings County’s agricultural economy expanded during the eighteenth century, farmers and landowners like the Leffertses became even more reliant on enslaved labor. In 1698, 15% of Kings County residents were of African descent, and virtually all were enslaved. By 1738, that figure had risen to 25%. In 1790, that number rose again: African Americans accounted for over 30% of Kings County’s population; most were enslaved. In that same year, the population of the town of Flatbush included 378 enslaved people, 12 free black people, and 551 white people – 75% of whom were slaveholders.
Kings County's Dutch farmers relied heavily on its large slave labor force which the New York State legislature supported by instituting "An Act for the gradual abolition of Slavery" in March 1799. The act provided that any child born to a slave after July 1799 would be considered free. However, to serve the demands of wealthy farmers, the child would remain the servant of the legal owner of his or her mother until, for a male, twenty-eight years of age, and for a female, twenty-five years of age. This law upheld slavery by ascertaining that they would remain slaves until their owner decided to free them.
In 1799, the Village of Brooklyn was located in the area now known as the Borough Hall Section of the Borough of Brooklyn. It was
completely separated by the East River from New York which was located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. There were no
bridges, tunnels, subways, telephones, telegraphs or any other rapid means of travel or communication between these two areas.
The Village of Brooklyn was located within Kings County and had a total population of 1,603 people. In the entire county, there were
4,495, people which included 1,432 slaves.\
For almost three decades, John Francis has been a planetwalker, traveling the globe by foot and sail with a message of environmental respect and responsibility (for 17 of those years without speaking).