As much as the slave-trade market played a role in building the city of Charleston, South Carolina, and many other cities across the South, Northern cities were no less complicit in the industry of purchased lives. New York City, in fact, held more slaves in the 18th century than any other city except for Charleston.
It’s no surprise then that many of the buildings, streets, banks, and plenty of other New York City landmarks carry the names of slaveowners or slavery supporters. Count Rikers Island city jail among that batch. The island the jail sits on is named for Abraham Riker (or Abraham Rycken), a Dutch immigrant who acquired the land in the early 17th century, and whose family owned it until selling it to the city in 1884. Abraham’s descendant Richard Riker was infamous in the 1800s for abusing the Fugitive Slave Act to send (or sell) African Americans in New York to slaveowners in the South, according to historians.