Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) appeared to botch American and Brooklyn political history during an appearance on “The Colbert Report” that aired Tuesday night, saying that slavery in the United States persisted under the Dutch as late as 1898.
Colbert was quizzing Clarke on the history of her borough.
“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?”
”I would say to them, ‘Set me free,’ ” Clarke said.
Pressed by Colbert what she would be free from, the black congresswoman responded, “Slavery.”
“Slavery. Really? I didn’t realize there was slavery in Brooklyn in 1898,” Colbert responded, seemingly looking to give the lawmaker a chance to catch her error.
“I’m pretty sure there was,” Clarke responded.
“It sounds like a horrible part of the United States that kept slavery going until 1898,” the late-night comedian then quipped.
Colbert pressed on, asking, “Who would be enslaving you in 1898 in New York?”
At that point, Clarke responded, “The Dutch.”
Of course, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawed slavery in 1865, the Dutch lost control of Brooklyn in a treaty with the British in 1674, and American sovereignty over the colonies was recognized by the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
Colbert later returned to his time-machine hypothetical, pressing Clarke as to whether, if she went back in time, she would warn Brooklynites of the looming influenza outbreak or the sinking of the Titanic.
“I think that history has to take its course,” Clarke said.
Colbert asked whether she would attempt to prevent the Second World War, to which Clarke admitted she would try to intervene.
“I would have to intercede in that case,” she said.