The New York Conspiracy
The layers of history run deep through Lower Manhattan. This Black History Month we will be looking at those places in our neighborhood that illuminate the stories of the African diaspora in New York. Kamau Ware, founder of the Black Gotham Experience, is authoring a series to help show us exactly what ground we stand upon.
If you stood at the corner of Wall Street and Nassau Street in the spring of 1741, you would have witnessed one of the most consequential 18th Century colonial trials. At this corner today sits a statue of President Washington in front of the steps of Federal Hall, where he took his oath of office in 1789. Known as The New York Conspiracy and renamed The Great Negro Plot in the early 1800s, this New York Supreme Court case sought to find the conspirators and masterminds behind a plot to usurp British authority and replace it with a working-class Irishman as king and an enslaved African as governor.
Caesar, who would have become governor of New York had the plot succeeded, had two close friends, Kofi and Prince, which comprised the Geneva Club – considered one of the early Black gangs of New York City. John Hughson, the Irishman who would have become king of New York, was also a close friend of Caesar. With Hughson providing a place for entertainment and fraternizing, Caesar enlisted a group of Black comrades to overthrow the English authority. Hughson enlisted the working Irish population. What at first appeared to be mysterious disconnected fires on March 18 through April 6 were later associated with the plot to burn the city and destabilize the master class.
Once the plot was discovered, New York City’s authorities launched an investigation into the conspirators to make them pay for their ambitions. Over 30 people were executed for their role in the plot that spring and summer, including Caesar and Hughson.
Previously: A First Rebellion