In 1755, the board of governors of a new college was sworn into office in Manhattan. King’s College, as it was called, was not far from the municipal slave market at Wall and Pearl streets in New York City.
The man presiding over the ceremony was Daniel Horsmanden, a colonial supreme court justice who had previously presided over the trial of alleged slave conspirators. One of the men he swore in as a governor of the new college was Henry Beekman, whose merchant family owned and traded slaves.
A local newspaper account of the ceremony carried on the same page an advertisement for the sale of “two likely Negro Boys and a Girl.”
Thus began the entwined histories of slavery in America and the institution that would become Columbia University.