Mayken Angola, the face of anti-slavery struggles in Netherlands who sued for being asked to clean her owner’s house

A copy of Mayken's petition for freedom/Photo credit: Women & American history

Her days of slavery began when the Dutch West India Company brought her to New Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Historical records indicate that she was possibly captured by a Dutch ship from a Portuguese ship heading to the Netherland in 1628.

For the latter part of her three decades of working as an enslaved women, she was engaged in domestic work her ailing strength could no longer withstand.

Mayken Van Angola, an enslaved woman, petitioned the government to grant her freedom on December 28, 1662. She was not alone in this pursuit. Two other enslaved women, Susanna and Lucretia, took inspiration from her initiative and applied for their freedom, according to newyorkalmanack.

Her freedom was with a condition that she would clean the house of the Director-General Petrus Stuyvesant once a week.

After performing the chore for a period of time, Mayken once again appealed this conditionality on grounds that the workload took a toll on her given her old age and an injury she suffered in her youth is affecting her ability to discharge the duty of cleaning the Director-General’s house.

She is believed to have hailed from West Africa. She was married to freed man by name Domingo Angola and resided in English New York.

Professor Jaap Jacobs, who has research extensively on slavery in the Dutch society, said people cannot overlook the impact of the black community in Amsterdam.

He said 1664, the population of the enslaved Africans were about 17 percent in Amsterdam with many in the employ of the Dutch West India Company and slave holders controlling the other section of the workforce, as reported by the village sun.

He explained that the structure of slave ownership changed in Netherlands following the impending takeover of Amsterdam by the English.

It saw growing rise in placing ownership of lands in the hands of enslaved and converting the status of slaves under the various families.

This was done mainly, according to Professor Jacobs, out of the welfare of the enslaved in the Dutch society.

He indicated that it was in this vein that Mayken fought for her freedom. According to her, the resilience and bravery of the enslaved African woman should earn her a place in the founding mothers of the city.

He said Mayken’s influence transcends the grip her master and the wife who had on other slaves. He indicated there was high possibility of Mayken and her husband being buried under St. Mark Church like her owner, Stuyvesant and his wife, Judith.

Professor Jacobs indicated that history will judge Mayken right if a statue is mounted in her honour. But, for him, it will be a rhetorical question he leaves for the authorities to answer.

He explained that what makes the system in Amsterdam interesting is that its way of slavery was quite different from what pertains in the United States or United Kingdom.

He indicated that owning slaves was kind of status symbol for many slave holders and allowed the enslaved to own lands and work on it. In this context, one would be able to appreciate why Mayken was able to enjoy the rights she petitioned for.

Last Edited by:webmaster Updated: November 8, 2022


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