“Anthony and Abraham van Salee were the ancestors of the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Humphrey Bogart.
They were among the earliest arrivals to 17th century New Amsterdam. In a number of documents dating back to this period, they are both described as “mulatto”. From what scholars have been able to piece together about their background, they appear to have been the sons of a Dutch seafarer by the name of Jan Jansen who had “turned Turk” and become an admiral in the Moroccan navy.
With the Port of Salee as the base from which it harried European shipping, references to the fleet he commanded are salted away in the old English sea shanties that are still sung about the Salee Rovers. The mother of his two sons was probably a concubine he had while trading in this part of the world before his conversion to Islam.
As a result of the anti-social behaviour of his white wife, Anthony van Salee was induced to leave the city precincts of lower Manhattan and move across the river, thus becoming the first settler of Brooklyn. Since Coney Island abutted his property, it was, until sometime in the last century, also referred to as “Turk’s Island”; the word, “Turk”, being a designation of his which the records used interchangeably with, “mulatto”. According to the documentation that people like Professor Leo Hershkowitz of Queens University have sifted through, it would seem that Anthony van Salee never converted to Christianity. His Koran, in fact, was in a descendant’s possession until about fifty years ago when, ignorant of its relevance to his family’s history, he offered it for sale at auction.