Slavery and Emancipation in New England: A Bibliography

The Economic Activities of the Narragansett Planters (1940), Ernest Hamlin Baker. Copyright Pettaquamscutt Historical Society

Over the past few months, I have been writing posts exploring pre-modern black intellectual history. They have largely focused on early New England, which is also my area of research. While scholars have long recognized the region’s importance as a center of abolitionism, it has often been considered of marginal importance for the study of slavery and emancipation. Indeed, at the time of the American Revolution, slaves and free blacks comprised only 4% of the region’s population. Yet, as I hope I have shown here on this blog, the source material available for studying black life in early New England is quite rich and self-reflective, giving us great insight into the intellectual worlds of early African Americans. I believe this archive allows us to hear voices often lost to history and allows us to study the mentalités of slaves and free blacks, making black New Englanders more significant than the numbers would suggest. And I’m not alone. A number of other AAIHS contributors—Christopher Cameron, Patrick Rael, and Chernoh Sesay—also work on black life in early New England. Over the past decade, there has also also been a renaissance of scholarship on slavery and emancipation in the region and a number of public history projects that have better illuminated this history. Today, I want to highlight these resources for those interested in early black New England life. This list will be by no means comprehensive, focusing on foundational works, those from the past 10 years or so, and some online resources. I welcome any additional suggestions you may have in the comments.

Foundational Works:

Greene, Lorenzo Johnston. The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776. New York: Columbia University Press, 1942.

Melish, Joanne Pope. Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Pierson, William. Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988.

Recent Works:

Adams, Catherine and Elizabeth H. Pleck. Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Bailey, Richard A. Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Boles, Richard. “Dividing the Faith: The Rise of Racially Segregated Northern Churches, 1730-1850.” Ph.D. dissertation, The George Washington University, 2013.

Cameron, Christopher. To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2014.

Di Bonaventura, Allegra. For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England. New York: Liveright, 2014.

Finkenbine, Roy E. “Belinda’s Petition: Reparations for Slavery in Revolutionary Massachusetts.” William and Mary Quarterly 64 (2007): 95-104.

Hardesty, Jared. Unfreedom: Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth-Century Boston. New York: NYU Press, 2016.

Manegold, C.S. Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Minardi, Margot. Making Slavery History: Abolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Sweet, John Wood. Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730-1830. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Warren, Wendy. New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America. New York: Liveright, 2016.

Whiting, Gloria. “African Families, American Stories: Black Kin and Community in
Early New England.” Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 2015.

Online Resources:
Royall House and Slave Quarters
This is the website for the Royall House, home of the largest slaveholding families in colonial Massachusetts and the only extant slave quarters north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The Royall House staff has an active social media presence and has done a great job publicizing not only on the history of slavery and emancipation in New England, but also contemporary issues of race. Their website is also home to a large number of documents regarding the Royall family and their bondsmen and women and archaeological collections documenting slave life.

African American and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts
This collection includes digitized resources from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Included here are a number of rare documents and published works.

Newport Historical Society
The Newport Historical Society has a number of online collections documenting Rhode Island’s history of slavery and slave trading.

Digital Archive of Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions
This new, massive online collection was collected and is hosted by Harvard University. It contains over 3,500 petitions against slavery and segregation produced between 1600 and 1870. Many of the documents provide great insight into the lives of enslaved and free black men and women by offering not only protests for freedom and equality, but also details of everyday life.

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Comments on “Slavery and Emancipation in New England: A Bibliography

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    Thank you for this useful bibliography Jared. I’d add Emily Blanck’s Tyrannicide: Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts.

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    Definitely a valuable effort! But don’t forget the several works of James Oliver & Lois E. Horton.

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    The early educational history of black people in New Haven, CT and Boston, MA make-up two of the three sections of Schooling Citizens: The Struggle for African American Education in Antebellum America (2009) by Hilary J. Moss

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