History of Slavery in Massachusetts

In an effort to build more historically inclusive tours, I've been busy researching much of the often intentionally-avoided history of slavery in the state. I wanted to share with you this collection of sources and information. Click around (on the yellow text) and educate yourself. I'll be continuing to update this as I learn more. 

1637

July 13

First record of enslaved Natives in New England.

Capt. William Pierce, in the Salem ship Desire, set sail with 17 captured Native Americans to sell into slavery in the West Indies.

Feb

1638

FEB 26

First record of enslaved Africans in New England.

Seven months later, Capt. Pierce returned from Providence to Boston with "cotton, tobacco and negroes etc". 

1644

Start of the African Trade

"The year 1644 was a momentous date in the history of the New England slave trade. Before that time, Massachusetts merchants had occasionally brought in Negroes from the West Indies, but in that year Boston traders attempted to import slaves directly from Africa, when an association of businessmen sent three ships there for gold dust and Negroes."

1674

The Royal African Company is granted a monopoly on the slave trade.

Read the original

1687

1696

The Royal African Company loses their monopoly on the slave trade.

1700

As the Century Turns

"Although New England's share in the slave trade was small in the seventeenth century, her merchants had by 1700 laid the foundations of a lucrative commerce. They had already begun the triangular slave voyages and had learned that the West Indies offered the best market for Negroes. As comparatively few Negroes were brought to New England in the seventeenth century, the traders in these colonies made their profits as carriers rather than as exploiters of Negro labor."

1704

1731

As the Century Turns

Britain orders its Colony of Massachusetts to not tax or discourage the importing or exporting of enslaved Africans.

1773 - 1777

Liberty and Freedom for All?

Revolutionary talk was heard by enslaved Africans who used the same language to legally petition for their own freedom multiple times:

The Petition of a Great Number of Blacks of detained in a state of slavery in the Bowels of a free and Christian Country apprehend they have in common with all other men...

"...a natural right to be free..." June 1773

"...a natural right to our freedoms..." May 25 1774

"...a natural right to be free..." June 1774

"...a Natural and Unaliable Right to that freedom..." Jan 13, 1777

All failed.

1778

"drafted by the legislature" (without public comment)

The public rejected it.

Mass. Constitution v.1

1780

For round 2, Massachusetts selects John Adams to write their Constitution. He finishes in 2 months:

Mass. Constitution v.2

Elizabeth Freeman

"Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute's freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it - just to stand one minute on God's earth a free woman -I would."

 More coming soon. 

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