The 1741 Negro plot refers to a plot supposedly organized by poor whites and slaves in in 1741 in New York to protest a number of social problems they were facing under their British colonial masters. It was planned to be a revolt which would see New York leveled with fires. There were rumors of slaves competing economically with the poor among the whites. Fires razed in lower Manhattan and within Fort George’s walls. Many slaves and some whites were arrested because of this. Many of them were burnt or hanged. Some slaves mentioned others for having been part of the plot. An Irish servant girl, Mary Burton, testified that there was a conspiracy by poor whites and the slaves to set the city on fire, kill white men and take their women before electing another governor and king. Fires were common in New York during those times and most of them were blamed on the blacks who were thought to be conspiring against white dominion. However historians disagree on the existence of such a plot. Other histrorians use the fact that there were fires to justify the existence of the Negro plot Rodriguez (2006).

The Negro plot of 1741 reveals many things about the character of New York city. Unfortunately surveying the city through the incident of the Negro plot tends to paint a negative image of the city. At the time of the Negro plot New York was a colony under British rule. The society was composed of rich whites, poor whites, black slaves and other blacks who were free people. All these people looked at each other with much suspicion and the whites were always afraid of an insurrection by the slaves.

The city is a place of many faces and colors. The introduction of many blacks as slaves, existence of Native Americans, whites and other races makes the city a multi-colored place. It is also a place of many cultures from many parts of the world. Consequently other new sub-cultures have had to be born from the original ones. This has resulted due to intermarriages between various races and the interacial interactions. Its diverse religious and cultural nature gives it the face of a lively vibrant city full of variety. It has always displayed the picture of a congested city. It is popular with many people and presently rated as the most attractive in the United States. The many people found in the city made it a major and popular residential place for the many cultures in the United States. New York has more than 800 languages bing spoken within the city. It is a great metropolitan center which marks the progress and advancement of the modern world Bond (2007).

There was division in the city based on race. This thing can be found in the city even today. The racial discrimination witnessed those days has been carried down through history to the present day. The slaves were planning to revolt probably because white New Yorkers had persisted in mistreating them and keeping them in slavery. Racial discrimination and prejudice is something that has been fought in the history of New York for avery long time. It depicts the character of the city, the mentality of the people and the rotenness of the society. Ethnic tentions resulting from racial animosity has been a characteristic of the city with whites on one side and other races on the other. Mexicans and people of Spanish origin, blacks and other races have had to fight battles of discrimination and segragation in the course of the history of New York. A number of U.S presidents have tried to bridge the gap between races by helping to uplift the lower races but their visions are yet to be realized Belden (1849). Some of them achieved little due to opposition from whites.

It is also a place of many injustices. The way the issue of the plot by slaves and some whites was handled showed that there are many injustices that have been perpetrated in that society. This nature could be evident in New York even today. Although there was no sufficient evidence on the existence of the plot, arrests and executions were carried out. Jail sentences were passed on people who could not be strongly linked to the plot. Historians cite the collection of conflicting evidence from those testifying against others by the British colonial authorities. However since the authorities were not concerned about fairness or justice, they punished the suspects severely in order to please the rich white population. The authorities were interested in suppressing the power of the slaves and the poor of their society. Bond (2007, p. 34) argues that exploitation of the poor by the rich formed the moral fabric of the society. Social and political oppression is evident as shown in the Negro plot incident.

The society is divided along social classes based on various factors such as economic, skin color, sex, and political power. The degree of equality in terms of normal life is low. Those with political or economic power or any other advantage seek to oppress the others using their advantage. Economic exploitation laid by the culture of slavery has been played over and over in the history of the city thereby forming part of its nature. The culture of revolting, violence and physical abuse seen in New York during that time has been transformed into organized crime by gangs and criminal groups. The minority races are still the perpetrators of criminal acts and unlawful undertakings. This culture which shapes the character of the city has its roots in the days of the Negro plot Rodriguez (2006).

Belden (1849, p.130) observes that discrimination and racism and other forms of societal significance result in inequitable distribution of resources as was the case during the time of the plot. The society is divided between the rich and the poor. This results in competition in order to overcome the problems of the lower rank. The society has poor people competing against the rich and trying to fight against the economic system created by capitalists. It is a society full of discontent in that those who feel opressed are not content with the economic and social conditions that prevail and therefore have no rest in their minds. The colonialism that existed at the time of the plot seems to be there all the time with the upper class wanting to rule over the lower class. Neo-colonialism is better explained through economic terms where those with economic power have always looked down on those with lesser wealth Rodriguez (2006).

Looking at New York through the Negro plot reveals struggles that have been going on for some time. Even after and before the incident there were struggles probably because of the social ills in the society. The city is depicted as a place of struggles of a political, social and racial nature. In the present times the battles may have been suppressed by modernization but in the economic and social arena there remains such battles. It has served as a battle ground for many years.

People of various racial, political, cultural backgrounds and religious standing have been engaged in contests of trying to defend themselves against the others whom they suspect of trying to bring them down Belden (1849). In every sphere of life, New York has witnessed battles pitting one side against the other. This image has been painted through out history apart from the Negro plot. Cultures, races, social classes, religions and many other categories of people have clashed in the city.

Bond (2007, p.74) notes that New York is also a place of advancement and economic prosperity. This foundation having been laid by the colonial British who owned slaves in the city and used them to make more wealth. They made the city to grow on a basis of wealth and prosperity. Today the trend still continues with wealth and technology ruling the affairs of the city. The city is regarded as the world’s capital as well as the capital of America and it is called ‘nice twice.’ It has been rated as the world’s financial capital. As result the city has played a very important role as a business hub in the United States. Businesses that were run by both whites and slaves at the time of the Negro plot show that the city was important in this area. Business was a major source of livelihood for the blacks as well as the whites both of the lower and higher economic class Bond (2007).


In conclusion, the paper consists of an examination of the character of New York city viewed through the Negro plot of 1741. This was a supposedly planned slave revolt in which fires razed many buildings as a sign of the protests by the poor whites and slaves against exploitation by rich people. As a result many blacks were arrested with a countable number of whites. More blacks than whites were hanged or jailed or even depoted to other places.It portrays the city as a place with many traits such as racial tentions, economic and social inequalities, multi-cultural set up and economic capitalism among others.

The main thing that shaped the character of the city is its multi-racial nature and socio-economic imbalance where there is exploitation of the lower economic class by the higher economic and political class. This has given birth to a continuous struggles and competition perpetrated by socio-economic ills and vetted out through racial hatred. Many regimes have made their contributions in trying to unite the society but not much has been achieved. Other wise the wealthy nature of the colonial British in the 1740s gave New York an identity and foundation of progress and success in all spheres of life especially economic advancement. Modernization and technological advancement have therefore become the characteristics of the city in the present time.


Rodriguez, J.P., ed. (2006). Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Williams, G. W., (1882). History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1.

Bond, R. E. (2007).Shaping a Conspiracy: Black Testimony in the 1741 New York», Early American Studies, vol. 5, n. 1 (Spring). University of Pennsylvania Press

Davis, T. J., «A Rumor of Revolt: The “Great Negro Plot«, Colonial New York

Belden, E. P. (1849). New York, Past, Present, and Future: Comprising a History of the City of New York, a Description of its Present Condition, and an Estimate of its Future Increase, G.P. Putnam, New York.