Congresswoman Yvette Clarke was on The Colbert Show last night repping the “fighting 11th” (soon to be the “fighting 9th”), and it was…well, “disaster” is a strong word. Clarke, who’s entering her third term, has dedicated her career to making American history, but she seems a little weak on, you know, American history.
Here’s what happened: Colbert asked Clarke what she would tell the Brooklynites of 1898 (the year Brooklyn joined New York City in “The Great Mistake of 1898) if she could go back in time. After a little bit of confusion about the rules of time machines, this happened:
Clarke: I would say to them, “Set me free!”
Colbert: Slavery. Really? I didn’t realize there was slavery in Brooklyn in 1898.
Clarke: No, I’m pretty sure there was.
Colbert: It sounds like a horrible part of the United States that kept slavery going until 1898.
Colbert: Who would be enslaving you in 1898 in New York?
Clarke: The Dutch.
Colbert: The Dutch. Those sneaky Dutch bastards.
So just to be clear, that doesn’t make any sense. The 13th Amendement abolished slavery in 1865, at which point the Dutch had been out of power for 191 years. (They lost control of Brooklyn in 1674, and American sovereignty over the colonies was recognized in 1783, for those keeping track.)
Of course, Clarke was working without the safety of Google, TV is scary, and Colbert is a notoriously high-risk interview — Clarke’s colleague Nancy Pelosi has warned fellow pols to avoid it. But still: Brooklyn was full of Dutch-owned slaves in 1898?
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Clarke told Daily Intel that the gaff was actually a joke that misfired (?). “It’s a comedy show — it’s meant to be light and meant to be funny,” she said. “Unfortunately, it was a joke that some people understood and some people didn’t understand. That’s pretty much it. It’s up to everyone’s own interpretation.” Yvette Clarke: probably not a historian, definitely not a comedian.