New York

Colbert and Viewers Learn from Rep.Yvette Clarke that Dutch Had Slaves in New York in 1898

Brooklyn Distict Nine Representative Yvette Clarke

Proving once again that “knowing something” is not a requirement for being a public servant, Yvette Clarke, Democratic Representative from Brooklyn, told viewers on “The Colbert Report” on Tuesday night that the Dutch enslaved blacks in Brooklyn in the year 1898.

All the trouble began when political satirist Colbert asked Clarke what she would say to Brooklynites about whether or not the so-called “Great Mistake of 1898” was really a mistake.

“Some have called Brooklyn’s decision to become part of New York City ‘The Great Mistake of 1898″™ ” Colbert said. “If you could get in a time machine and go back to 1898, what would you say to those Brooklynites?”

After a little tug-of-war about whether Clarke would   go back “knowing what she knows now” or with some other type of consciousness (which clearly baffled Colbert, and that was before we all discovered that “what she knows now” is not too much.)

If she would have said, “Excuse me, I never heard about ‘The Great Mistake of 1898“™ could you tell me about it” she would have garnered a lot more respect, since no one else has ever heard of it either. But to say something really bizarre to cover her back, well that was just laughable, or worse, as you will see.

Instead Clarke’s response was, “I would say to them, ‘Set me free.’

Come again.

Well, that was like throwing raw meat to the lions, and Colbert did not miss a beat.

“From…” Colbert said allowing the congresswoman to explain.

“Slavery” Clarke insisted.

I think even Colbert was a bit taken aback then.

“Who would be enslaving you in 1898 in New York?” Colbert wondered out loud, knowing that no matter what the answer might be, it would be a good one.

Believe it or not, Clarke actually said, “The Dutch.”

Oops. You know that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten. Well, I guess Clarke was absent that day. Who in New York does not know that the English kicked the Dutch out of New Amsterdam (of course you remember that) in one of those 16 something years, way before there was even a United States, Civil War, or anything, basically. And the English re-named their new real estate conquest New York. That’s because there is an ‘Old’ York, back in Merry Olde England. Right? (I looked it up and the exact date was 1674.)

Julia Golia, a member of the Brooklyn Historical Society, was very kind in her criticism.

“Oh, my goodness!” she exclaimed. “Oh no! There wasn’t slavery in Brooklyn in 1898.” Duh.

New York actually abolished slavery in 1827, long before the Civil War. That’s why it was considered a “Free State” at the time of the Civil War, which began in 1860. (Maybe Clarke thought the modifier “Free” in front of the noun “State” had something to do with the cost of parking in New York. Who knows?)

Minister Sylvia Kinard ran against Clarke in the Democratic primaries held last June. She was a bit less kind than Golia, observing that, “the quality and intelligence of representation” in the district is simply not at an acceptable level.

Clarke herself could not comment due to her attendance at the Democratic National Convention, but her spokeswoman Kristia Beaubrun said that Clarke was just joking.

The Colbert show is “supposed to be humorous.”

There is no question that it would have been quite funny if it hadn’t been so sad.


Shari has certainly been around the block. As a teacher, writer, former CEO and present day master chef, Shari can cover a human interest story with a flare and style hard to match anywhere. Born and raised in the streets, schools and institutions of Brooklyn, Shari is the epitome of Brooklyn life. Contact Shari at shari(at)