[Uploaded on Aug 4, 2011 –>
An artificial island, a solid waste landfill, Rikers is the world’s largest penal colony. Incarcerating over 130,000 NY’ers a year, Rikers is a key component to the NYPD’s community policing strategy. Arrest a lot of young people, build long rap sheets, and keep people moving through the system with “short” jail stays. The video features the story of two teens, one who spent a year on Rikers, the other is in the middle of a trial, and is facing time.]
It’s for this reason that Harlem Historical Society Director Jacob Morris is heading up a petition to rename the Rikers Island jail facilities and distance it from Richard Riker’s racism. Morris told DNAinfo.com
that the jail is “the spider at the center of the web” of New York’s
role in the slave trade, and that, “There’s nothing … socially
redeeming about Richard Riker.”
Depending on what version of history you go by, Riker was either a racially progressive gentleman, or a real bastard.
According to Eric Foner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Columbia University history professor who wrote Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, out this year, Riker was the latter. From
the 1810s to the 1830s, when the abolitionist movement was gathering
steam, particularly with its role in the Underground Railroad, Foner
writes that Riker was moving the city in the opposite direction. Riker
used his wealth and power as a presiding judge over New York City’s primary criminal court to see to it that African Americans were swiftly deemed “fugitive” runaway slaves, without granting them due process to prove they were actually free.