To create a buffer zone between New Netherland and the neighboring Algonquian speaking tribes with which the colony was at war, colonial directors beginning with Willem Kieft issued land grants to half-free and free Black residents. “Half-freedom” was a status unique to New Netherland in which Blacks enslaved by the Dutch West India Company and individual slaveholders were released from bondage and granted a limited form of freedom contingent upon specific conditions. On July 13, 1643, Domingo Anthony and Catalina Anthony, widow of Jochim, received the first of over two dozen land grants issued to half-free or free Black men and women. The grants totaled 130 acres, stretching across the present-day Manhattan neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, and Little Italy.
The grants are found in two distinct Archives series: Series A1880 and Series 12943. Series A1880 is a collection of land patents and deeds, originally written in Dutch but available in translation, issued by the New Netherland Council. Series 12943 contains land patents compiled by the British colonial government, which recorded new versions to confirm grants issued under Dutch colonial rule. Following the Dutch surrender of New Netherland, former governor Peter Stuyvesant wrote a letter legitimizing the land grants to Blacks. However, the New York Provincial Assembly subsequently banned the inheritance of real property by free Black individuals, effectively eliminating the ability of Black families to retain land holdings.