Expanding 17th and 18th Century Sources
Rev. David A. Pettee
The following bibliography includes a list of sources that attempt to highlight the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and also identify individuals and provide information about the lives of enslaved Africans in New England beginning in the mid-seventeenth century – especially in the Boston area. After slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts in 1783, succeeding generations of those who profited from it seemed to forget that slavery had ever existed, preferring instead to downplay the role that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade had played in the development of the economy in Boston and in New England culture. Despite the historical amnesia, primary and secondary source records were kept that often provide unexpected detail regarding the slave trade and the significant presence of enslaved Africans (and indigenous peoples) in Boston and in Massachusetts from the mid-seventeenth century through the end of the eighteenth century.
Selected Primary Source Records
Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, more than two hundred Massachusetts towns and cities compiled their vital records. The publications were often referred to as the “Tan Book” series because of the color of the covers. These volumes combined town records, church records, private records, gravestone inscriptions and newspaper articles. The Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 cover the time period from about 1620 to the end of 1849, with some death records after 1849. Separated out and included at the end of many books are the births, marriages and death dates of ‘Negroes’ often with names.
Reference to slaves can often be found in probate records, specifically in inventories and wills of slave owners in Massachusetts. Microfilm of the following records can be found at www.Familysearch.org, at the Massachusetts Archives and at the New England Historic Genealogical Society:
Barnstable County, Probate Records, 1685-1789
Essex County, Early Probate Records, 1635-1681
Essex County, Probate File Papers, 1638-1881
Hampshire County, Probate File Papers, 1660-1858
Middlesex County, Probate File Records, 1648-1871
Norfolk County, Index to Probate Records, 1793-1900
Plymouth County, Probate File Papers, 1686-1881
Suffolk County, Index to Probate Records, 1636-1893
Worcester County, Index to Probate Records, 1731-1881
Worcester County, Probate File Papers, 1731-1881
William M. Sargent’s Maine Wills 1640 – 1760 (Maine was a province of Massachusetts until 1820.)
Across Massachusetts, many town and/or city histories were written in the latter half of the nineteenth century, which sometimes include references to slaves and/or Negroes. A visit to local libraries will often find a rare book or history room that can be visited. In addition, there are many family genealogies that have been prepared about early founders of Massachusetts that occasionally make reference to slaves. The New England Historic Genealogical Society contains the largest repository of Massachusetts genealogies in the country, although www.familysearch.org also has an extraordinary collection of family histories.
Select Massachusetts Archives Records
The Massachusetts Archives holds the official records created by Massachusetts state government from 1629 to the present.
1754 Massachusetts Slave Census, Massachusetts Archives, Boston, MA.
In 1754, Governor William Shirley ordered each town and city in Massachusetts (and also Maine, since Maine was still part of Massachusetts) to complete an enumeration of all slaves, both male and female, over the age of sixteen. In total, the records of 119 towns have been preserved with a total of 2,720 slaves counted. In 1754, the City of Boston reported 989 slaves, 647 males and 342 females.
Other Black History Resources at the Massachusetts Archives
1771 town valuations (published in 1978)
Available for research at http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~hsb41/masstax/masstax.cgi
Massachusetts Archives Collection
Volume 9, Domestic Relations, 1643-1774
Divorce and abandonment records; materials concerning slaves, apprentices and family relations
Court Records Research – Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives is a separate state-level archives, that collects records from state, county, and local courts. The Judicial Archives has deposited a collection of microfilm of certain court records at the Massachusetts Archives. The Judicial Archivist can be contacted at:
Ms. Elizabeth Bouvier
Head of Archives
Supreme Judicial Court Archives
3 Pemberton Square, 16th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
The Suffolk Files
“The Suffolk Files contain the earliest file papers of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and its predecessors, the Court of Assistants and the Superior Court of Judicature (1620-1800). There are also some records of the county courts and the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace. The records contain cases not just from Suffolk County, but from Massachusetts and parts of Maine and New Hampshire. Extensive indices of every person, place, and subject, as well as date and calendar indices were prepared. Microfilm of the Suffolk Files and indices is available at the Massachusetts Archives.”
This is a remarkable effort to document every voyage that was part of the transatlantic slave trade from 1526 to 1866. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is available on-line, and is periodically updated as new information becomes available. The database includes searchable information on more than 35,000 transatlantic slave-trading voyages, including the names of some kidnapped Africans.
African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts (Massachusetts Historical Society)
The Massachusetts Historical Society holds some primary documents relating to slavery in Massachusetts. Three important resources include the Hugh Hall Account Book, 1728-1733 that includes the names of several slaves, and the Domestic Sale of Slaves, and the Lives of Individual African Americans before 1783, which includes several slave sales, including names. The site includes an index to all documents, https://www.masshist.org/endofslavery/index.php?id=50 and a search engine.
Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America, Volume III, New England and the Middle Colonies, Elizabeth Donnan, Washington, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1930-35.
A fascinating and very comprehensive collection of material relating to the slave trade which originated in, or brought slaves to the Continental Colonies. There are occasional references to the names of slaves.
Dublin Seminar for New England Folk Like, Annual Proceedings, “Slavery/Antislavery in New England” 1647-1770 by Peter Benes, pages 12-30,
“Based on a study of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Suffolk County probate records completed by Jane M. Benes in 1997 documenting the names and values of 1,762 Native American and African-American slaves inventoried in Boston households in the period from 1647 through 1770. The essay attempts to trace the disposition of these slaves after they were inventoried (through transfers of ownership, auctions, forced transportation and sale, and manumission.) It also attempts to trace the family ties and connections these slaves established while serving in white households and to reexamine the Boston slave owners’ attitudes towards these ties. The author concludes that little attention was paid to enslaved black families except as a way to control them or to use them to produce new slaves. Some slave-owning families deliberatively chose to acquire (and to dispose of) women slaves with a record of bearing children.”
“Crossing Borders: Slavery and Two New England Families,” Rev. David A. Pettee, New England Ancestors 9, nos. 5-6
An article that delves into a genealogical research involved in connecting two Newport, RI families joined by slavery between 1773 and 1803.
Early Boston newspapers, such as the Boston News-Letter and the Boston Gazette carried advertisements that involved the sale of enslaved Africans in Boston and Massachusetts. From 1719 to 1781, when advertisements stopped for good in the Boston Gazette, more 1,103 slaves-for-sale advertisements had been published. The Boston Public Library: Microtext Department, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA and the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA carry the Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876.
Slave-for-Sale Advertisements and Slavery in Massachusetts, 1704-1781, Robert E. Desrochers, Jr., The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 3, Slaveries in the Atlantic World (Jul., 2002), pp. 623-664
Selected Books and Other Secondary Sources
Slavery in the North is a comprehensive website devoted to outlining the history of slavery in the Northern states.
African American Resources at the New England Historic Genealogical Society: A Selected Bibliography, NEHGS, Boston, 2010
A selected bibliography of African American resources within the Society’s collection that includes a helpful introduction to African American genealogical research.
A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in New England. The Choices Program. Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, www.choices.edu., June 2005
This curriculum “explores the effects of the trade in slaves and of slavery itself on the new Americans of the time. The unit helps students to understand how history, and the telling of history, affects us today.”
Notes on the General History of Slavery in Massachusetts, George Henry Moore, D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1866
One of the earliest general histories of slavery in Massachusetts published after the end of the Civil War that includes references to original acts and legislation specific to slavery.
The Negro In Colonial New England, Lorenzo Johnston Greene. New York: Columbia University Press, 1942
“This book shows the role of the Negro in colonial New England. Negro slaves were brought into the region in such numbers that they influenced the economical, political, social and religious institutions of their masters. The leading slave-trading colonies were Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Connecticut and New Hampshire played lesser roles. The main ports were Boston and Newport, but Salem, Kittery, Providence, Bristol, Charlestown, Middletown and New London were also connected with the trade. This book presents the social repercussions, slave occupations, crimes and punishment, the slave before the law, the slave family, relationship between master and slave, slavery and conversion and the free Negro. Also included is a summary, bibliography and the original full-name plus subject index. An appendix is included which shows the distribution of Negroes by states and counties, numbers of burials and baptisms, and a list of leading slave-holding families.”
Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts, 1742-1998, Franklin A. Dorman.
The book includes the family histories of 20 African American families in Massachusetts, written in a genealogical format.
Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts, Robert H. Romer, Levellers Press, 2009.
“In this first history of slavery in western Massachusetts in colonial times, Robert H. Romer demonstrates that slavery was pervasive in the Pioneer Valley in the 1700s, where many of the ministers and other “important people” owned black slaves. To show the role of slavery in the valley, Professor Romer presents a “snapshot” of slavery, choosing a moment (1752) and a place (the main street of Deerfield) to present detailed information about the slaves who lived in that place at that time – and their owners. Working largely from original sources – wills, probate inventories, church records, and merchants’ account books – he shows that slavery was much more significant than had previously been thought. Some twenty-five slaves belonging to fifteen different owners lived on that mile-long street in 1752. He emphasizes that these were individuals, some born in Africa, some born as slaves in New England, forced to live their lives as property, always subject to being sold away at the whim of an owner.”
Havard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History, by Sven Beckert, Katherine Stevens and the students of the Harvard and Slavery Research Seminar, 2011 Sven Beckert and Katherine Stevens: http://www.harvardandslavery.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Harvard-Slavery-Book-111110.pdf
“In the fall of 2007, four Harvard undergraduate students came together in a seminar room to solve a local but nonetheless significant historical mystery: to research the historical connections between Harvard University and slavery. Inspired by Ruth Simmon’s path-breaking work at Brown University, the seminar’s goal was to gain a better understanding of the history of the institution in which we were learning and teaching, and to bring closer to home one of the greatest issues of American history: slavery. But no one sitting in that room on that beautiful late summer day had any idea what we would end. With much of the literature on Harvard’s history silent on slavery, it was unclear whether Harvard had any links to slavery, and if so, what they were.
“As the story that follows makes abundantly clear, the students’ curiosity in the face of the unknown and their impressive mastery of the arts of historical detection were rewarded with a treasure trove of findings, many of them disconcerting. The 32 students who participated in this initial and three subsequent seminars scoured Harvard’s archival records, drew countless published volumes from its library stacks, made careful inspections of our neighboring colonial graveyards, and carefully inspected Harvard’s oldest buildings. Much of what they found was surprising: Harvard presidents who brought slaves to live with them on campus, significant endowments drawn from the exploitation of slave labor, Harvard’s administration and most of its faculty favoring the suppression of public debates on slavery. A quest that began with fears of finding nothing ended with a new question—how was it that the university had failed for so long to engage with this elephantine aspect of its history?”
A Good Master Well Served: Masters and Servants in Colonial New England, 1620-1750, Lawrence William Towner, New York, 1998
This is a 1954 dissertation published posthumously as a book. Early American historians are finding connections between the bonded status of African American slaves, European indentured servants, convicts, and sailors. An excellent starting point for this inquiry is this neglected classic by Lawrence Towner, former head of the Newberry Library in Chicago and editor of the William and Mary Quarterly. This comprehensive study of the lives and experiences of bonded laborers in colonial Massachusetts demonstrates the full sweep of their work and aspirations. Towner analyzes the legal status of all varieties of black and white bonded laborers. He explores their living and working conditions and discusses the cultural significance of work in their lives. The book also addresses gender issues in bonded labor. The author’s approach provides a new understanding of the experiences of black and white workers in early America, and corrects a long-standing neglect of blacks in previous research.”
Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-century New England. William D. Piersen. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
“This book examines the development of an Afro-American subculture in eighteenth-century New England. Piersen concerns himself not with the machinery of slave control or the political and social disabilities of bondage, but with the processes of cultural change and creation from the black bondsman’s point of view. What was it like to be an African immigrant in colonial New England? What attitudes and assumptions underlay the Afro-American response to Yankee culture? What does the development within the confines of a predominantly white and ethnocentric New England of an Afro-American folk culture in religion, public rituals, folk arts and crafts, social mores, and daily behavior say about the creation of American culture?
“On the face of it, the master class called the tunes and slaves danced the beat. Blacks who were taken into New England’s bondage were clearly engulfed in a pervasive, narrow-minded Euro-American society that had no interest in fostering Afro-American autonomy. The New England experience was often cruel, and the numbers alone suggest it was among the most unequal of black/white cultural contacts in the New World. Nonetheless, despite the strictures of bondage, the black Yankees of eighteenth-century New England created a sustaining folk culture of their own.”
African-Americans in Boston: More than 350 Years, Robert C. Hayden, Trustees of the Public Library City of Boston, 1991
References the people, events and places that have shaped African American history in Boston.
Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and into Legend, Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Amistad, 2008
“Merging comprehensive research and grand storytelling, Mr. and Mrs. Prince reveals the true story of a remarkable pre-Civil War African-American family, as well as the challenges that faced African-Americans who lived in the North versus the slaves who lived in the South.
“Lucy Terry, a devoted wife and mother, was the first known African-American poet and Abijah Prince, her husband, was a veteran of the French and Indian wars and an entrepreneur. Together they pursued what would become the cornerstone of the American dream—having a family and owning property where they could live, grow, and prosper. Owning land in both Vermont and Massachusetts, they were well on their way to settling in when bigoted neighbors tried to run them off. Rather than fleeing, they asserted their rights, as they would do many times, in court.
“Here is a story that not only demonstrates the contours of slavery in New England but also unravels the most complete history of a pre-Civil War black family known to exist. Illuminating and inspiring, Mr. and Mrs. Prince uncovers the lives of those who could have been forgotten and brings to light a history that has intrigued but eluded many until now.”
The Meaning of Slavery in the North, edited by Martin H. Blatt & David Roediger, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998
“Southern cotton planters and Northern textile mill owners maintained what has been called “an unholy alliance between the lords of the lash and the lords of the loom.” This collection of essays focuses on the central role of slavery in the early development of industrialization in the United States as well as on the interconnections among the histories of African Americans, women, and labor.”
To Heal the Scourge of Prejudice: The Life and Writings of Hosea Easton, edited by George R. Price and James Brewster Stewart, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1999
“How did racial prejudice originate and why has it been so deeply rooted in American culture? What have been the long-term effects of prejudice on the intellectual, communal, and psychological resources of African Americans? How might the nightmare of racial domination be truly brought to an end? Still pertinent today, these were among the key questions addressed more than a century and a half ago by Hosea Easton (1799–1837), an important yet long neglected activist and intellectual. A black minister from New England, Easton rose to prominence during the 1820s and 1830s by joining in the struggle of free African Americans to resist southern slavery and secure racial equality. From this experience he developed a deep understanding of the problem of “race” in the United States and became a trenchant critic of white supremacy and its devastating consequences. This volume brings back into print the only extended writings of Easton that have survived into our time: his insightful, almost prescient A Treatise on the Intellectual Character, and the Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States, first published in 1837; and his passionate 1828 Thanksgiving Day “Address.” The book also provides a biographical portrait of Easton and his family, drawn from primary documents as well as secondary sources in the areas of biography, genealogy, and social history.”
Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860, Joanne Pope Melish, Cornell University Press, 1998
“Following the abolition of slavery in New England, white citizens seemed to forget that it had ever existed there. Drawing on a wide array of primary sources—from slaveowners’ diaries to children’s daybooks to racist broadsides—Joanne Pope Melish reveals not only how northern society changed but how its perceptions changed as well. Melish explores the origins of racial thinking and practices to show how ill-prepared the region was to accept a population of free people of color in its midst. Because emancipation was gradual, whites transferred prejudices shaped by slavery to their relations with free people of color, and their attitudes were buttressed by abolitionist rhetoric which seemed to promise riddance of slaves as much as slavery.
“Melish tells how whites came to blame the impoverished condition of people of color on their innate inferiority, how racialization became an important component of New England ante-bellum nationalism, and how former slaves actively participated in this discourse by emphasizing their African identity. Placing race at the center of New England history, she contends that slavery was important not only as a labor system but also as an institutionalized set of relations. The collective amnesia about local slavery’s existence became a significant component of New England regional identity.”
Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, Elise Lemire, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2009
“Concord, Massachusetts, has long been heralded as the birthplace of American liberty and American letters. It was here that the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War was fought and here that Thoreau came to “live deliberately” on the shores of Walden Pond. Between the Revolution and the settlement of the little cabin with the bean rows, however, Walden Woods was home to several generations of freed slaves and their children. Living on the fringes of society, they attempted to pursue lives of freedom, promised by the rhetoric of the Revolution, and yet withheld by the practice of racism. Thoreau was all but alone in his attempt “to conjure up the former occupants of these woods.” Other than the chapter he devoted to them in Walden, the history of slavery in Concord has been all but forgotten.
“In Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, Elise Lemire brings to life the former slaves of Walden Woods and the men and women who held them in bondage during the eighteenth century. After charting the rise of Concord slaveholder John Cuming, Black Walden follows the struggles of Cuming’s slave, Brister, as he attempts to build a life for himself after thirty-five years of enslavement. Brister Freeman, as he came to call himself, and other of the town’s slaves were able to leverage the political tensions that fueled the American Revolution and force their owners into relinquishing them. Once emancipated, however, the former slaves were permitted to squat on only the most remote and infertile places. Walden Woods was one of them. Here, Freeman and his neighbors farmed, spun linen, made baskets, told fortunes, and otherwise tried to survive in spite of poverty and harassment.
“Today Walden Woods is preserved as a place for visitors to commune with nature. Lemire, who grew up two miles from Walden Pond, reminds us that this was a black space before it was an internationally known green space. Black Walden preserves the legacy of the people who strove against all odds to overcome slavery and segregation.”
Peter’s War: A New England Slave Boy and the American Revolution, Joyce Lee Malcolm, Yale University Press, 2009
“A boy named Peter, born to a slave in Massachusetts in 1763, was sold nineteen months later to a childless white couple there. This book recounts the fascinating history of how the American Revolution came to Peter’s small town, how he joined the revolutionary army at the age of twelve, and how he participated in the battles of Bunker Hill and Yorktown and witnessed the surrender at Saratoga. Joyce Lee Malcolm describes Peter’s home life in rural New England, which became increasingly unhappy as he grew aware of racial differences and prejudices. She then relates how he and other blacks, slave and free, joined the war to achieve their own independence. Malcolm juxtaposes Peter’s life in the patriot armies with that of the life of Titus, a New Jersey slave who fled to the British in 1775 and reemerged as a feared guerrilla leader A remarkable feat of investigation, Peter’s biography illuminates many themes in American history: race relations in New England, the prelude to and military history of the Revolutionary War, and the varied experience of black soldiers who fought on both sides.”
The Black Timeline of Massachusetts: A History of White Supremacy in the Bay State, Tingba Apitda, The Reclamation Project, 2003
“The Reclamation Project’s Black Timeline of Massachusetts re-examines this lost part of history and brings this disturbing legacy front and center, for no people can understand the nature of the oppression they face today if they are blind to the history that created it.”
The Hidden History of Massachusetts: A Guide for Black Folks, with Special Reference to the Boston Area, Tingpa Apidta, 1995, 2003
“Now for the first time, the fascinating historical threads of the Pilgrims, Puritans, Indians, and Black Africans have been woven into a gripping narrative in a new and informative book. Readers will learn the true account of the First Thanksgiving and find out about the Black Africans of colonial times who helped the Founding Fathers, the Abolitionists who held slaves and believed in the inferiority of the Black race, and the Black history behind many famous tourist attractions, monuments, and statues. This book includes photos, illustrations, and the largest list of Massachusetts slave owners ever compiled.”
Making Slavery History: Abolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts, Margot Minardi, Oxford University Press, 2010
“According to Margot Minardi in Making Slavery History, the history of the American Revolution taught in classrooms for generations, complete with a runaway slave as first martyr and an African poet as international celebrity, “owes as much to Massachusetts activists and historians in the nineteenth century as it does to Crispus Attucks or Phillis Wheatley themselves” (p. 12). Minardi embraces the framework of historical memory to revisit “the fundamental question of recent social history–‘who makes history?’”–including who disappeared, who reappeared, and what this meant for understanding ideology and identity in Massachusetts (p. 11). Over the course of five chapters, Minardi investigates stories about slaves and the founding of the country which were told and retold to fit the political as well as social motivations of the purveyor of each story. These include the often disguised or accentuated presence of blacks in paintings, the carefully choreographed memorial dedications, the vigilantly framed sensibility of Phyllis Wheatley, and the disappearance and resurgence of Crispus Attucks.”
Slavery in the Age of Reason: Archaeology at a New England Farm, Alexandra A. Chan, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 2007
“Offering a rare look into the lives of enslaved peoples and slave masters in early New England, Slavery in the Age of Reason analyzes the results of extensive archaeological excavations at the Isaac Royall House and Slave Quarters, a National Historic Landmark and museum in Medford, Massachusetts. Isaac Royall (1677-1739) was the largest slave owner in Massachusetts in the mid- eighteenth century, and in this book the Royall family and their slaves become the central characters in a compelling cultural-historical narrative. The family’s ties to both Massachusetts and Antigua provide a comparative perspective on the transcontinental development of modern ideologies of individualism, colonialism, slavery, and race.
“Alexandra A. Chan examines the critical role of material culture in the construction, mediation, and maintenance of social identities and relationships between slaves and masters at the farm. She explores landscapes and artifacts discovered at the site not just as inanimate objects or “cultural leftovers,” but rather as physical embodiments of the assumptions, attitudes, and values of the people who built, shaped, or used them. These material things, she argues, provide a portal into the mind-set of people long gone-not just of the Royall family who controlled much of the material world at the farm, but also of the enslaved, who made up the majority of inhabitants at the site, and who left few other records of their experience. Using traditional archaeological techniques and analysis, as well as theoretical perspectives and representational styles of post-processualist schools of thought, Slavery in the Age of Reason is an innovative volume that portrays the Royall family and the people they enslaved “from the inside out.” It should put to rest any lingering myth that the peculiar institution was any less harsh or complex when found in the North.”
Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North, Catherine Manegold, Princeton University Press, 2010
“Ten Hills Farm tells the powerful saga of five generations of slave owners in colonial New England. Settled in 1630 by John Winthrop–who would later become governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony–Ten Hills Farm was a six-hundred-acre estate just north of Boston. Winthrop, famous for envisioning his ‘city on the hill’ and lauded as a paragon of justice, owned slaves on that ground and passed the first law in North America condoning slavery. In this mesmerizing narrative, C. S. Manegold exposes how the fates of the land and the families that lived on it were bound to America’s most tragic and tainted legacy. Challenging received ideas about America and the Atlantic world, Ten Hills Farm digs deep to bring the story of slavery in the North full circle–from concealment to recovery.
“Manegold follows the compelling tale from the early seventeenth to the early twenty-first century, from New England, through the South, to the sprawling slave plantations of the Caribbean. John Winthrop, famous for envisioning his “city on the hill” and lauded as a paragon of justice, owned slaves on that ground and passed the first law in North America condoning slavery. Each successive owner of Ten Hills Farm–from John Usher, who was born into money, to Isaac Royall, who began as a humble carpenter’s son and made his fortune in Antigua–would depend upon slavery’s profits until the 1780s, when Massachusetts abolished the practice. In time, the land became a city, its questionable past discreetly buried, until now.
“Challenging received ideas about America and the Atlantic world, Ten Hills Farm digs deep to bring the story of slavery in the North full circle–from concealment to recovery.”
The House Servant’s Directory, Or, A Monitor for Private Families, Robert Roberts, first published in Boston, 1827, more recently republished by the American Antiquarian Society, Introduction by Jessica Harris, 2013
“In order to get through your work in proper time, you should make it your chief study to rise early in the morning; for an hour before the family rises is worth more to you than two after they are up.” Thus begins Robert Roberts’ The House Servant’s Directory, first published in 1827 and the standard for household management for decades afterward.
“It is remarkable for several reasons; It is one of the first books written by an African American and issued by a commercial press, and it was written while Roberts (ca. 1780-1860) was in the employ of Christopher Gore (1758-1827), a former senator from and Governor of Massachusetts.”
Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-Story White House, North. Showing that Slavery’s Shadows Fall Even There, Harriet Wilson, originally published by George C. Bard & Avery, 1859, rediscovered by Henry Louis Gates, Vintage Books, 1983
“A fascinating fusion of two literary modes of the 19th century, the sentimental novel and the slave narrative, Our Nig, apart from its historical significance, is a deeply ironic and highly readable work, tracing the trials and tribulations of Frado, a mulatto girl abandoned by her white mother after the death of the child’s black father, who grows up as an indentured servant in 19th century Massachusetts.”
Brethren By Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery, Margaret Ellen Newell, Cornell University Press, 2015
“In Brethren by Nature, Margaret Ellen Newell reveals a little-known aspect of American history: English colonists in New England enslaved thousands of Indians. Massachusetts became the first English colony to legalize slavery in 1641, and the colonists’ desire for slaves shaped the major New England Indian wars, including the Pequot War of 1637, King Philip’s War of 1675–76, and the northeastern Wabanaki conflicts of 1676–1749. When the wartime conquest of Indians ceased, New Englanders turned to the courts to get control of their labor, or imported Indians from Florida and the Carolinas, or simply claimed free Indians as slaves.
“Drawing on letters, diaries, newspapers, and court records, Newell recovers the slaves’ own stories and shows how they influenced New England society in crucial ways. Indians lived in English homes, raised English children, and manned colonial armies, farms, and fleets, exposing their captors to Native religion, foods, and technology. Some achieved freedom and power in this new colonial culture, but others experienced violence, surveillance, and family separations.
“Newell also explains how slavery linked the fate of Africans and Indians. The trade in Indian captives connected New England to Caribbean and Atlantic slave economies. Indians labored on sugar plantations in Jamaica, tended fields in the Azores, and rowed English naval galleys in Tangier. Indian slaves outnumbered Africans within New England before 1700, but the balance soon shifted. Fearful of the growing African population, local governments stripped Indian and African servants and slaves of legal rights and personal freedoms. Nevertheless, because Indians remained a significant part of the slave population, the New England colonies did not adopt all of the rigid racial laws typical of slave societies in Virginia and Barbados. Newell finds that second- and third-generation Indian slaves fought their enslavement and claimed citizenship in cases that had implications for all enslaved peoples in eighteenth-century America.”