5. Wall Street was Literally Built by Slaves

1916 Redrawing of The Castello Plan, map of 1660 New Amsterdam via Wikimedia Commons. The wide street is now Broadway, and Wall Street is the line with guard towers on the left. 

Wall Street was once a wall… built by slaves. Slaves (and free Africans) contributed a great deal to the early construction of the city, including the wall from which Wall Street derives its name. In 1653, under the Dutch Governor William Kieft, the wall was constructed to protect Dutch settlers from Native American raids.

Running from river to river, it consisted of a walkway and wooden fence made up pointed logs 18 inches wide and 12 feet long. The African slaves who were responsible for its construction were owned by the Dutch West India Company. Some of them were actually “half-free,” meaning they could own property, testify in court, bear arms, attend church, and marry. However, their children would not be considered free.