A Crossdresser and Con Artist in Antebellum New York City

When:19 Sep 2017, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Venue:Morven Brown 310 (map ref C20)
Who:Professor Shane White (University of Sydney);
Shane White

History Seminar Series


New York has always been a city tinged with fraud. From Boss Tweed and Bernie Madoff through to the myriad cons and scams – many small, some not so small – committed everyday on the streets, fraud is more than just part of the fabric of city life, potentially it is a key to understanding its history. The cons that worked, the spiels that convinced New Yorkers and strangers simply to hand over their money, lay bare more of New York’s past than any dry telling of the doings of city mayors. My interest here is in the role of fraud and confidence tricks in the life of Black Manhattan, the way New York blacks have hustled and been hustled. My conceit is that such a fraudulent history, as well as being fascinating in its own right, can reveal much that is unknown, and perhaps even true, about New York City itself. In this talk I propose to talk about black con artists generally, and more specifically about Pete Sewally a cross dressing African American notorious in the 1830s and 1840s.

About Shane White

Shane White is Challis Professor of history at the University of Sydney. He researches and writes about African American history and the history of New York City. His most recent book is Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire (New York: Picador, 2016).

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