Skip to main content

tv   Slavery in Colonial New England  CSPAN  August 24, 2020 10:54am-11:58am EDT

10:54 am
available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. up next, historian jared hardesty talked about the history of slavery in new england from his book, black lives, native lands, white worlds, which focuses on the regions involved in shave slavery. the historical society and the abigail adams historical society cohosted this event. >> welcome. welcome to the hingham heritage museum. my name is deirdre anderson and i have the pleasure of serving as the executive director of the hingham historical society, whose home here is at the hingham historical museum, and what a treat to welcome you all here tonight in this sold-out program. i would like to thank on behalf of our board of directors and our small staff, i would like to thank you all for making us a
10:55 am
part of your week. i would also like to thank jared hardesty for traveling across country to be with us tonight. i would like to thank c-span for filming us so that others who can't be with us tonight can see it at a later date. and thank you to the abigail adams historical society and their board of directors who offered us this wonderful opportunity to partner with them as we did last year with their speaker. abigail's rich history in this region inspires us every day. thank you. the hingham historical society is focused like never before on its history to understand all voices. we currently are in the midst of a campaign for the benjamin lincoln house which is our effort to purchase the home of hingham's american revolutionary war hero at 181 north street. benjamin lincoln received the british sword of vendor at
10:56 am
yorktown, or as we like to tell our visiting school children, that's benjamin lincoln on the white horse. featured so prominently in trumble's painting in the rotunda of the u.s. capitol. benjamin lincoln also served hingham as a clerk, consstabtab and selectman. he also came from a family that owned slaves. and two blocks from here, there's a slave quarter in the attic of the benjamin lincoln home. our next major exhibit here at the museum generates out of the archaeological finds from the nbta's greenbush excavation. the artifacts of colonial buckle, a fishing weight, tell many stories. but the amazing story of the tribe for which the commonwealth gets its name, the
10:57 am
massachusetts, we're privileged to work with the tribe, a member of whom is here with us tonight, to work on this exhibit, to be sure for the first time in the hingham historical society's history, we present the voices correctly, but how do we do his? how do we tell the story of slavery, how do we tell the story of our native peoples well and correctly? and we do it together. and it's a joy to be here tonight with all of you, all voices at the table, and thank you for coming to tonight's program. i would like to introduce michelle kaufman, head of the board at the abigail adams historical society, who will introduce our speaker. thanks for coming tonight. >> i'm going to echo deerd yeir
10:58 am
saying welcome and thank you for coming. i want to thank deirdre and michael sincerely and the rest of the hingham historical society for partnering with us on a program. we're so happy to do this. before i get into the introdubs, i want it tell you about another program you might find of interest. on saturday, march 28th, from 9:00 to 1:00 in plymouth at the spier center, the back roads of the south shore, which is a consortium of local historical organizations of which the hingham historical society and the abigail adams birthplace are a part, are hosting our annual symposium, and we have so many exciting anniversaries this year in massachusetts, that this symposium will be focusing on those anniversaries such as obviously the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the mayflower, 100th anniversary of the reaching of women's suffrage, and interestingly, locally, the
10:59 am
100th anniversary of the trial which will be the subject of the keynote. so more information is available on our website, which is so i, as deirdre said, i'm a member of the board of the abigail adams historical society. and we oversee and were the stewards of the abigail adams birthplace, which was built in 1685. it's in waymouth, and it's where abigail smith adams was born in 1744. she lived for the first 20 years of her life there, until she married john adams in 1764. and she -- she continued to be connected to this house throughout her life. she visited throughout her parents' lives, and this is a place where her character and ideals were formed. so it waw very important to her. we are an all-volunteer organization, and we try and continue her spirit by offering educational programs.
11:00 am
we also offer seasonal tours and private tours, and if you would like more information, please check out our website at so when i first joined the abigail adams birthplace board a few years ago, despite knowing how prevalent slavery was in early new england, i was still shocked to discover that there were slaves in the home where abigail adams grew up. her antislavery sentiments are well known, but her father, reverend william smith, had at least four slaves. cato, tower, tom, and phoebe. and these individuals were important to abigail adams' early life. and we try and commemorate them and honor their memory by researching their lives and incorporating information about their lives into our tours, and also offering a program on early new england slavery every year. so this year, we're very pleased to be able to have jared hardesty join us.
11:01 am
i have wanted jared to speak for us since his first book came out, which is "unfreedom, slavery, independence in 18th century boston." and this year, the stars have aligned. jared is an associate professor at western washington university and the author of "black lives, native lands, white worlds, a history of slavery in new england" and i welcome you to give jared a warm welcome. [ applause ] >> good evening, everyone. thank you for coming. thank you to the hingham historical society and deirdre and michael and everyone here. this place is really swanky. really nice. and also, to the board of the abigail adams historical society/birthplace. i was told to say slash birthplace at dinner. it's a great honor to be here. and certainly thanks to the
11:02 am
audience here tonight as well. this is now the seventh book talk i have given in new england about this particular book. and almost every one of them has been sold out. that's heartening as an author, and it's also heartening as someone who cares about this subcorrect asu subject and wants this information out here. it's my great honor tonight to talk about black lives, native lands, white worlds, a history of slavery in new england. this book is the first general overview of slavery in new england in nearly 80 years. the last book to do this was lorenzo johnston green's the negro in new england, published in 1942. there's been plenty of books since then that explore slavery in new england, but they're usually part of larger histories of slavery in the united states, slavery in the american north, or a focused historical study, and i'm certainly guilty of doing that with my first book. this is a general overview meant
11:03 am
for kind of reading public. this evening, i want to discuss the purpose of writing this book, or in other words, why i think we need this book in this moment. and to give you a brief overview of its contents. in doing so, i'll talk a bit about the history of slavery in new england more generally. so why write this book at all, especially in this moment? it came out last year in 2019. in the end, i envisioned this book as a conversation or rather me narrating a conversation that's been going on for about the past 25 years. and you see about four different conversations going on in that time period. the first, there's been a massive outpouring of academic scholarship, books, journal articles, things like that, by scholars on the topic of new england slavery. much of that scholarship, and i am totally guilty here, has been hyperspecialized. focusing on particular places,
11:04 am
moments, themes, or sets of sources. these works, as excellent as they are, sometimes make it difficult to see the bigger picture. and also, they're sometimes inaccessible, both because of the way academics write, and also because of things like pay walls, general articles behind pay walls that are expensive to get access to. the second conversation is that coming into this conversation, are the libraries, archives, and historical societies across new england who have identified that they own collections related to slavery, and made them widely accessible via online publishing, traditional print publishing, but also sometimes something as simple as when these libraries digitize their catalogs, providing subject headings related to slavery, it makes these sources much easier to identify and much more accessible. the third, add to that a historical reckoning with slavery by leading institutions across new england such as brown
11:05 am
university's report on slavery and justice. now, that reckoning which started in 2003 with brown has extended to historic sites large and small, as we're here tonight. other universities and local and state governments have all begun to dig into their own past and relationship with slavery. the final piece of this is the work of community activists, of public historians, local historians, independent researchers, who have uncovered an incredible amount of source material on slavery and publicized it in the most radically accessible ways on blogs and things like that. and this forces us all to acknowledge the region's history of and connection to slavery. so we have all these different conversations that have been going on for about the past generation. many different people talking to each other, with each other, at each other, past each other
11:06 am
oftentimes about the history of slavery in new england, the memory of that history and the politics of that memory. in the book, i try to bring together these conversations and use them to narrate a new, more comprehensive, yet accessible history of new england slavery. in short, i stand on the shoulders of people who have been in the trenches doing this work for the past 25 years. in that sense, i view the book not only as an end, it sengticizes 25 years of scholarship to tell this history, but it's also a beginning. it provides a set of facts, a framework, and a starting point for future conversations. so how do i narrate this conversation? these kind of four conversations we have seen come together? well, i discuss the lives of enslaved africans and indigenous people in new england, how their enslavement was instrumental to the colonization of the region,
11:07 am
and how slavery and colonization were two processes designed to transform new england into a place that best served the region's white settler population, especially the most elite settlers. all three of those are tall orders in and of themselves, but to do that in about 60,000 words, the editor told me no more than 60,000 words, that about 150 to 175 pages of print, not much at all. and to make it approachable to the reading public. these were no small tasks. short length, make it, you know, make sure it's readable. indeed, the hardest part of writing the book was actually not what to research and write. i had 25 years of excellent source material from academics, researchers, and activists. but rather how. how to create a book that is short yet comprehensive, comprehensive yet readable, readable yet sensitive to the subject matter.
11:08 am
and now the book's published and many of you bought copies, i really hope i pulled it off. the book is both a chronological and topical narrative that opens with the colonization of new england in the 1620s and 1630s and ends in the early 19th century with the process of emancipation. to provide some coherence, a long chronology, a big history, the book uses one organizing theme, connections. i look at the connection between new england slavery and slavery and slave society -- and slave societies in other parts of the americas. i look at the connection of slavery in new england to the larger social, economic, and political development of the region. and finally, i look at how those two types of connections, connections to other slave societies, connections to the development of new england, how those two connections shape the
11:09 am
lives of enslaved people and how enslaved people shaped those connections. it's a tall order. but nevertheless, the book opens by examining the connection between slavery and colonization. anyone who is familiar with the history of slavery in new england, there's kind of this mythical moment that historians for the longest time had narrated at the beginning of slavery in new england. it was 1638. in that year, the ship "the desire" sailed into boston harbor, and john winthrop reported the cargo onboard. there was sugar, salt, and he also listed african captives. 1638, this is the starting date. over about the past 15 years or so, historians have really begun to challenge that as a foundational moment in the history of slavery in new england. and they have done that in two ways. the first is pretty obviously there were enslaved people in new england, enslaved africans before 1638. we have direct eyewitness
11:10 am
testimony from the early 1630s, the presence of enslaved africans. but the more important part, and where the scholarship has gone since, and where my book really tries to develop this is, not only studying the desire when it came back to new england, but the "desire kwael" when it left. it was based out of boston. historians began looking into, what did the "desire" ship to the west indies to purchase the salt and sugar and the african captives? and in the hold of the "desire" were a number of pequat captives. between the year 1636 and 1638, the colonies of massachusetts, rhode island, and connecticut went to war against the pequat people. the war yielded hundreds of captives, many of them were enslaved locally in new england towns. but we know a couple hundred at least were sold out of the
11:11 am
colony. and so they're sold out of new england to the west indies where they're exchanged for african captives. we see here the direct connection between slavery and colonization in new england. slavery served a dual purpose. first, it served the purpose of removing indigenous people from their land to open it for english settlement. what better way to remove people than to permanently tear them away, sell them away from their homeland? this allows for the rapid expansion of the new england colonies, both large numbers of english immigrants, high reproduction rates. they quickly expand into the interior, and that creates labor shortages. especially in areas that had been settled early, especially the major port towns, boston, salem, places like that. and they need labor. and so they use african slave labor to supplement the labor force as a whole.
11:12 am
and so you see the process of exchanging native captives for african captives, and that's the foundation of slavery in new england beginning in the 1630s, and that process is going to continue, exchanging captives, indian captives for african captives, through the 1670s. as this cycle suggests, central to it was new england's connection to the west indies. especially the growing plantation economies there. the english settled the west indies about the same tie they settled new england. so 1620s, they arrive in barbados and later the wayward islands. quickly, these islands are completely colonized and turned over to sugar cultivation. almost the entire islands are. they're entirely stripped of forest and any piece of arable land is planted with sugar cane, and eventually, they use enslaved africans to work those cane plantations.
11:13 am
these islands, because they have completely been stripped of their forest, they're only growing sugar cane, they need food. they need provisions for that enslaved labor force. they need supplies, like timber, for building and for burning. they need livestock for food and for labor. and they turn to new england. as early as the 1630s, you see new englanders selling the provisions to the west indies. it's used to fuel the plantation complex there. and in exchange, new englanders received sugar and molasses and things -- and enslaved africans. it forms a symbiotic relationship between the two regions, between new england and the west indies, first barbados and then the leeward islands. and this is a symbiotic
11:14 am
relationship that extends beyond the economic. it's very much economic. but there's a considerable amount of cultural exchange as well. so some of the earliest graduates of harvard, for example, were the sons of west indian planters. there's extensive intermarriage between elite merchant families in new england and planter families in the west indies. further solidifying those economic ties. and the new england colonies begin borrowing heavily from the slave societies in the caribbean to create their own systems of slavery here. so, for example, massachusetts borrowed slave law and customs governing slavery, directly from barbados. and most enslaved people who arrived in the region, enslaved africans, actually had spent time in the west indies before they arrived here. sometimes they were actually born there, sometimes they spend a couple months after arriving on a slave ship, but they spent
11:15 am
a considerable amount of time in the caribbean. using this caribbean connection as a starting point, my book then turns and explores the way in which enslaved people arrived in new england. all told, about 20,000 enslaved african africans arrived. they came to complirise about 4 of the region's population. this is another place you have to stop and kind of question the way the history of slavery in new england has been written. one of the ways historians have pushed back against and others have pushed back against the importance of slavery in new england is the demographic numbers. it's only 4% of the population. how important could it actually be? there's two answers to that that the book takes up. the first is when you look in specific regions, the enslaved population is higher. boston is about 12% to 15% enslaved. newport, rhode island, about 25%
11:16 am
enslaved. urban areas, large enslaved populations. but it's not just the urban areas, which was the other thing historians would say and this was a mistake i made in my first book when i said it didn't matter for new england as a whole but it really mattered for boston. researching this book actually reveals that there's significant enslaved populations in other parts of the region as well. rural areas. deerfield, massachusetts, in 1750, had a population of 550 people. 50 of them were enslaved. the narragansett country, which was called south county, home to larv slave holdings. families who had owned thousands of acres of grasslands, and they would have vast herds of cattle on them, and they would own large enslaved labor forces, mostly women, who would then process the dairy products from the cattle to ship all over the place, but mostly to the west indies. so you see slave holdings in the south county rhode island, 40,
11:17 am
50, 60 enslaved people. we're talking rivaling plantations that we think of in places like virginia. highly localized, but nonetheless, a significant slave holding that belies that kind of 4%. the other piece of this, though, the other way in which i kind of push back is going back to that caribbean connection. while there were not large numbers of enslaved people in new england per se, the entire economy revolved around what historians call the business of slavery. the selling of provisions to the plantations, the transportation of enslaved people throughout the americas and also the trans-atlantic slave trade. we'll come back to that in a second. the entire economy revolved around enslavement. a historian of new england by the name of mark peterson just published this giant book on boston. i think he phrased it pretty well when he said boston was a
11:18 am
slave society where most of the enslaved people lived elsewhere. and that's what we could say for new england as a whole. so the demographics -- i push back against getting caught up in the demographics for these reasons i just explained and also the way in which you see white new englanders eagerly embrace slave trading by the late 17th century. embrace slave trading, especially from africa, but also within the americas as a form of commerce. rhode island, the colony of rhode island became the center of slave trading in all british north america. if you take all the slave voyages from the colonial period, from all of the colonies that became the united states, and you added them up, they would not equal those of rhode island. rhode island is by far the center of the british north american slave trade. it actually rivals those of the west indies as well. so it's an extensive slave
11:19 am
trade, central to the economy of the colony. so that's how i set up the second chapter, is pushing back against those demographic facts to talk about the ways in which enslaved people arrived in new england and pushed back against some of those narratives. but most important for that chapter, chapter two, i dedicate the bulk of it to exploring the lives of five individuals trafficked into new england and their stories and experiences of arriving in the region and being enslaved. and i want to read a short passage from the book about one of these men some of you might be familiar with. standing on the gallows on the town common in cambridge, massachusetts, in september, 1665, was a negro man who delivered a speech to the large crowd awaiting his execution. sentenced to hang and have his dead body put on display for
11:20 am
poisoning his master, mark not only confessed to his crime and offered repentance but provided a short biography of his life. he was born into slavery in barbados, some time in the year 1725. he was sold away from the island as a young boy, probably around the age of 8. when he could be put to work. and when he arrived in boston, he was sold to a succession of masters. one a brass worker named mr. salter, was especially kind to mark, having quote learned him to read and educated him as tenderly as one of his own children. salter must not have been that kind, however, as he sold mark to another master who then in turn sold him to john codman. codman put mark to work in the foundry on his property. he was a skilled metal worker. mark then toiled, working as an ironworker in boston and charleston until he finally grew tired of codman's abuse and murdered him. mark's story helps to illustrate an important trend in new
11:21 am
england slavery that is easy to overlook when we discuss the slave trade to the region. many enslaved people that arrived in new england were actually born in the west indies, and trafficked up here as children many times, and so they're natives of the caribbean. it shows that depth of the caribbean connection. and so this is why it's so important to delve into these individual lives, because it helps to prevent us from kind of stereotyping most enslaved people in new england were african and what not. it allows us to really see their backgrounds and flesh them out and who they were as people. from there, the book has three chapters exploring the institution of slavery in new england and the lives of enslaved people in the region. these chapters look at topics like slave law, slave labor. by the early 18th century, you could find enslaved people
11:22 am
working in every part of the economy, whether it was in domestic servitude, in households as women providing support for households or men serving as valets or coachmen, but also every industry. every major colonial industry, rope making, distilling, ship making, enslaved labor was central to it, especially in urban areas like boston. but in the rural farm economy as well, you see extensive use of enslaved labor. and so it's everywhere by the early 18th century. deeping engrained in the economy of the region. these chaptersologist look s a lived experience of slavery and resistance to slavery, how people resisted. what allows me to narrate these stories, it comes back to what i just told about mark, is that the records here are really rich. the court records, for example. the account books kept by munchants and manufacturers,
11:23 am
private letters and diaries, wills, and print sources such as newspapers, give us a really good sense of what life was like for enslaved people. so for example, in one of the major collections for the colony of massachusetts, they're all the court file papers for the colony of massachusetts as a whole. and then there's hundreds of testimonies and depositions from enslaved people. and certainly, they're biased. they're talking, they're testifying on a certain case as a witness or as a plaintiff or as a defendant, but they're also talking about their everyday lives. who they encounter, who they know, what they know. you can actually kind of hear their voices through these documents. that's unique for understanding slavery in the english speaking world until the 19th century. so the records here are really rich. and you can find them everywhere. anywhere you look, in the
11:24 am
records from 17th and 18th century new england, you'll find the presence of slavery in the documentary record. so that allows us to kind of narrate and tell the stories of enslaved people, what their lives were like, what they did for work, who they married, what their relationship between enslaved parents and their children were. you can see all of these facets in the documents and the book takes those up in turn. the final chapter of the book explores the american revolution and its impact on slavery. the revolution in many ways provided the impetus for ending slavery in new england for both idealogical and economic reasons. more significantly, it created opportunities for enslaved people to strike out for their own freedom through activism, military service, or simply running away. the opportunities created by the revolution opened up a whole world of possibilities, and in terms of writing this book, this perhaps is my favorite part to
11:25 am
research, is this time of the revolution, my first book cut short, i didn't want to deal with the revolution. in this one, i do deal with the recei rec revolution. if you look at the 1790 federal census for the state of connecticut, they only list householders. so who was the head of house? but they will list the race of the house holder. if you look in the state of connecticut, if you find all of the african-american men who are head of house in 1790 in connecticut, 20% of them were veterans of the continental army. they could link their freedom to service, you could link their freedom to the service in the continental army. so this amazing -- so disproportionately, african-american men in new england fought in the continental army. they served and many of them could link their freedom to that service. integrated army, by the way. but of course, the american revolution had two sides.
11:26 am
and there's plenty of evidence of enslaved people joining the british as well. one of my favorite stories i found was of a man named poppy fleet. poppy fleet belonged to a guy named thomas fleet jr., who was a printer in boston, rabid patriot. and poppy fleet's appearance in the records is -- he comes and goes in and out of the records for about a 25-year period beginning in 1774 and leading up through the 1790s. and his first appearance in the records is actually a runaway ad. thomas fleet jr., owner of a newspaper, posts an ad because poppy has run away. but he didn't run away from thomas fleet. he ran away from jail. he broke away from jail. as it turned out, many enslavers in new england, if they couldn't control their bondsmen and women, they would put them in jail. send them to jail, let the town
11:27 am
or the state deal, the colony deal with it. that's what happened to poppy. but he broke out. he disappears from the record again. we know his next appearance on the record is march 1776. march 17th, 1776, to be precise. evacuation day. there's a record when the british army decamped from new york city at the end of the war of independence, on 1783, by that point, about 3,000 african-americans were living in and around new york city, working for and with the british military. and the british military eva evacuates them. and one of the officers, guy carlton, records all of the people of african descent who left. he records their names, their spouses, their ages, and how they came to end up in british
11:28 am
service. and poppy fleet appears in this record. it's called the book of negroes is the name of the document. he appears, and beside his name, it says evacuated with the army, evacuated with the army from boston. so we know he evacuated from the army. with the british army. he went, lived in new york city for the duration of the war, where he worked for a loyalist printer by the name of alexander robinson. after the war, he moved to halifax, nova scotia. it appears he may have received some land there as many black loyalists did, and he continued working for alexander robinson, publishing the royal american gazette until 1786 when robinson decided he was going to leave and move to prince edward island. poppy once again disappears from the records, and then he appears again in 1791. departing for sierra leone. which is a colony the british found for black loyalists and other people of african descent living in london to resettle in west africa, and circumstantial
11:29 am
evidence i'm comfortable saying this but i will preface it with circumstantial evidence suggests poppy was the first printer in british sierra leone. and so it's a really neat story. you can see the way in which these forces of the revolution move enslaved new englanders around the atlantic. because of stories like poppy fleet's and really the stories of those heads of household in connecticut, that chapter on the american revolution ends on a cautiously optimistic note. by the mid-1780s, slavery had no legal standing in any of the new england states. in theory. enslaved people were rapidly becoming free, in theory. the region's slave trade had been abolished, in theory. and there were real possibilities for freed people to become equal members of the new united states, in theory. the epilogue of the book is much, much less optimistic. it examines all of those in theories and puts them into context, demonstrating the ways
11:30 am
that enslaved and recently freed people were systematically denied their freedom, disenfranchises, segregated and alienated from white society. one of the other opportunities i had in researching this book was in the process of studying this revolutionary era, was studying the process that historians have termed selling out. this is a prosthat began in the 1760s, it lasted through the 1790s in which both enslaved and free black people were sold out, the name, sold out of new england. many of them were kidnapped. every new england state by the mid-1780s had passed laws against this, yet it continued. the work of abolitionist societies came to be really composed of trying to help people who had been kidnapped and recover them to petition the government to have them found and brought back. significant numbers of enslaved and free black new englanders are sold out of the region. many of them end up in atlantic
11:31 am
canada. there's long-standing ties between new england and nova scotia, for example. in the maritime economies in nova scotia could use that sort of enslaved labor that had worked here in new england. and so, for example, if you take a look at loyalist newspapers from the 1780s and '90s, they also publish runaway slave ads and occasionally you find one where the enslaver who took the ad will say things like i believe they're trying to get home to massachusetts. the numbers are really hard to get at because of course this is an illegal activity, but if you take a look at the work of the providence abolitionist society, at black civil rights activists like prince hall and his attempts to lobby the massachusetts government to prevent this practice, this selling out, i would estimate as many as 1,000 people were trafficked out of new england between the 1760s and 1790s. remember, this is 20,000 people over the entire colonial people,
11:32 am
so we're talking a 20th of that population is trafficked out in the revolutionary era. this suggests the sort of lost promises of freedom. so not only do you have selling out. you have the rise of formal segregation. public schools are segregated in all of the new england states. you have the marginalization from the labor force after the revolution. to the point -- you have the rise of scientific racism and the application of racist principles to public policy. many freed people actually just leave new england entirely, and you can see this. many black veterans, for example, who served with the continental army, just settled away from new england and never returned home. others struggled to make a living drifting town to town looking for work, being chased out by town authorities, worn out, as the process was called. as all of this was happening, what about those white worlds? what was happening in white new
11:33 am
england society? my second reading from the book here. as blacks left the region, or struggled to eke out a living, new england's white population never faced the consequences for the sins of slavery. rather, they enjoyed all the benefits of generations of slave ownership with little regard to those who suffered under its yoke. even sympathetic whites or enslavers who realized the errors of their ways benefitted. poorer whites, many of whom never owned slaves, embraced racism and the marginalization of people of color. not only did that lessen competition in the job market, but it gave poor whites the psychological satisfaction of racial superiority. as slavery dwindled in new england, many whites, including those who owned slaves, began to define themselves as fundamentally different from other americans, especially those in the south. new england was free soil. so rich in liberty that slavery could never take deep root.
11:34 am
slavery this line of thought went, was never important to the new england economy, was only practiced by a few wealthy families, and was a largely benevolent institution. most importantly, white new englanders realized the errors of their ways during the american revolution and abolished slavery forever. in crafting this narrative of a free new england, whites absolved themselves of the sins of slavery. such a belief system allowed for whites to shift the blame for black poverty away from the legacies of slavery and onto individual moral failings. under this logic, if people cannot thrive in a land of liberty and opportunity, they had no one to blame but themselves. white new englanders, in short, made slavery and its legacies history. and it's that facet that reverberates across time to us today and where i'm going to end this evening. the ability of white new
11:35 am
englanders to totally distance themselves from slavery helped craft many of the myths about slavery in new england. myths that you probably are familiar with, that slavery was economically unimportant, the myth that only a few people were enslaved and slavery never really took root in new england. that morally superior new englanders saw the error of their ways and quickly abolished slavery, or perhaps worst of all, slavery never existed in new england or at least not in a form moegst americans would recognize as such. my hope is at the very least this book is able to confront and help fight against those myths. thank you so much. [ applause ] >> i'm happy to take a few questions, but do wait for the
11:36 am
microphone once i call on you. so this gentleman right here. >> who were the earliest voices against slavery? and second, more political comment, what's your view on reparations? >> oh, boy. okay. so the first answer, the earliest anti-slavery activity you see, you're going to start to see some anti-slavery activity by the late 17th, early 18th century. but there's something i should mention first. enslaved people were never fans of slavery. there's always antislavery sentiment as long as slavery is present. that's the first thing. the second thing is in terms of actual white sentiment against slavery, you begin to see this late 17th, early 18th century. so quakers in places like rhode island are some of the earliest antislavery, but quaker antislavery, it has much more to do with kind of the internal dynamics of the quaker
11:37 am
community, the way in which the ability to own and hold other people as property, to do with what you want with those people, the way that hurts the godly community. you see a very similar argument coming out of samuel sewell, who is a justice, a prominent jurist in massachusetts. he writes a pamphlet in 1700 called the selling of joseph, which argues against slavery. but his concern about slavery is that enslaved people will constitute in his words a quote extra vast blood. they are not -- they can never be incorporated into the body politic. they're always foreign. they're always alien. and that's why we have to get rid of slavery, because it will disrupt the community. so a sort of abolitionism we recognize as such, as advocating for the end of slavery, perhaps the enfranchisement of people of african descent, that's much more kind of towards the revolution of the 1760s and
11:38 am
1770s. and one of the things i talk about the way in which enslaved people become free in new england, so much of that is actually individual initiative, them filing lawsuits, things like that, and there's a community of lawyers, abolitionist lawyers who help them and help them file suit and petition and things like that. the question of reparations. i am not comfortable answering it, first of all, so my take on it -- i draw from the kind of, you know, the question is what constitutes reparations? that's the sort of first question. i think about tawny heezy coats's essay, one of the things he says is we all would share in reparations that happen, including african-americans. it would be redistributing public goods to help communities that have been disproportionately affected by the legacy of slavery.
11:39 am
so anyone who pays taxes would be pay nothing to that. i think that's the road to go. i want to punt on the question. the other side of it, though, is, and where i am much morph comfortable talking about as a historian, as an educator, not the sort of politics side of it, and how feasible it is, is these stories have to be told. they should be part of any interpretive programming at historic sites. they deserve -- those stories deserve to be told just as much as those of the founding fathers. so there's an education component to reparations that i think is a little bit of an easier answer for me at least as a historian, which is to say, yeah, these stories should be front and center in our interpretations. they should be present in the histories in a way that they haven't been, and i think that's the first step eneducation.
11:40 am
yeah. education. yeah. >> so, i have a question about the 20,000 that you estimate that were enslaved in new england. and i'm wondering if you base that on the 1765 slave census, because my reading of that slave census was that it was only persons above 16 that were counted. so based on that, wouldn't you think the number would be even higher than 20,000? if you include those who were 16 and below? >> yes. so yes. about 20,000 people, looking through the records, using the trans-atlantic slavery database, corroborating others who arrived in new england. that's not taking into account reproduction, not accounting
11:41 am
trafficking. it also doesn't include the hundreds of carolina native people that are trafficked into new england as well. so there's probably a significantly larging number, but conservative estimate, 20,000 in the region, but all of the slave census -- all of the censuses, either the slave census, the official one taken by governor shirley, or all of the dramatically undercount the number of enslaved people because they don't do things like enumerate people under the age of 16. so for example, as is noted, a very large percentage of enslaved people in new england were children. the largest percentage of slave holders in a place like boston were actually artisans, kind of what we think of as middle class people today, middling people, as they would be called in the 18th century. they would prefer to buy children because they were cheaper, you could raise them in your household like an apprentice. you're taking on aprentapprenti
11:42 am
but they remain property for life. by the time they're adults, they're worth a hefty sum of money and they're skilled and experienced. so a desire for enslaved children, you could see this in the writing of peter faneuil as well requesting enslaved children from africa for his personal valet. he wanted a 12-year-old boy. so yeah, so i think there is, especially in the official records, there's drastic undercounting because of this issue of not counting children, and also, enslaved people were taxable property. new englanders did not like paying taxes. we know this, right? so it behooved them to hide enslaved people. to underclaim, and so if you take a look, there's december y -- you can see this in boston where the largest enslaved population lived in massachusetts, there's a record taken kind of through someone -- i forget who writes it now, but about 1500, over 1500 enslaved people in boston in like 1752,
11:43 am
then you look at the slave census, 1754, and there's only like 900. well, what happened to 600 people in two years? that's dramatically undercounting. that's one of the things that has led to this interpretation by historians who look at official records and say there's just not that many. it's not that important. look at the low numbers. it's just not the case. i think there's dramatic undercounting. i'm being very conservative with numbers in the book because it's so hard to get at them. yeah. yes. >> i had a question that's actually kind of a preamble to your book. >> okay. >> i was struck when you were talking about folks in the 1630s enslaving people, that just as people came here with a skill to make a buck or to make a gristmill work, they came with a skill to make somebody a slave. and they also came with a
11:44 am
societal permission as to what they could get away with. and you know, so my question is kind of, without going back to egypt and greece and rome, and going to, you know, britain, magna carta, the rest of it, was it a permission that was granted for native peoples, for nonchristian peoples, for people with brown skin? and where did the skills come from, and what was the permission that was granted? >> there's a lot going on. okay. so it's a big question. >> a big question. >> so interestingly enough, slavery largely disappears from new england by 1400 or so, especially after the black death in the mid-14th century. slavery largely disappears. and that said, other forms of unfreedom still exist. unprentise
11:45 am
apprenticeships, things like that. a couple things happen in the 16th century, in the 1500s, that are key for understanding what's happening in new england. the first is englishmen begun traveling abroad. they go all over the world and begin writing about what they encounter and what they see. one of the places they spend a lot of time in is the caribbean and latin america. by the mid-16th century when they visit a place like cuba or mexico or peru, they see large numbers of enslaved africans. the portuguese and the spanish use. and what this does in their minds is it links slavery to blackness. slavery to africanness, so through these travels, it's a lilt more complicated than that, but through these travels, that's one of the things that happens. the other development that comes out of the 16th century and into the 17th century is the sort of nature of colonization, of english colonization. it's largely private. we think about the virginia
11:46 am
company, about the massachusetts bay company, the plymouth company. these are private entities with broad powers to design their own laws. so they can kind of do what they want. within a certain reason, and remember, they are 3,000 miles away from any royal oversight. they can craft laws. and so what happens in the colony of massachusetts, in 1641, they actually openly legalize slavery. ironically, the law code is called the body of liberties. it deals with bond slavery, with slavery. if you read it, you at first think they outlaw slavery because it says bond slavery is banned except -- and they list three exemptions. it's people who are captured in just wars. ie, nonchristians. native people can be enslaved. people who are strangers. ah, africans who are foreigners, they're strangers among us, is the language. or those who are sold to us is
11:47 am
the third. so now you've just accounted for the ability to capture native people as slaves because they're captured in just wars. i'll come back to that in a second, and for the facilitation of selling people into new england as slaves, so either african or indigenous, and those who were foreign or strangers, so africans. so it reads like, oh, they outlaw slavery, but really it's racially codified very early on. essentially what they're saying is people of european descent can't be enslaved. anybody else that comes or is captured in war or whatnot can be. the other -- finally, where i'll end the question is the idea of just wars. this is deliberate. you know, one of the shocking things when we think about -- i talk about that cycle of indigenous captives being sold for african captives. it struck me as just how open and deliberate and shameless
11:48 am
this was. there's a letter from 1645 from emanuel downing. emanuel downing was john winthrop's brother-in-law, kind of prominent magistrate who lived in salem and will eventually go back to new england. and in this letter, downing writes to winthrop and says we should start a war with the narragansett. they're causing problems. it will be a just war because they're not christian. we'll be able to take them captive, and then we'll be able to sell those captives to the west indies and obtain -- he calls them moors, but obtain africans, because he's worried, and by 1645, he's already worried that salem is running short of laborers. all the young people don't want to stick around. the moment they get a little bit of opportunity, they go and settle land that's been stolen from indigenous people. they go and settle land. they move away from the town. where do you get a labor force? you have to pay them. wages are high in this context. so you bring in africans who will work, he says essentially,
11:49 am
one african could be provided for 20 africans for one white man, essentially, was his ratio he worked out in terms of provisions. it's a much cheaper system of labor to bring in. just open, advocating for this. winthrop kind of shuts it down, but you know, any sort of hint of diplomatic issues with indigenous people, you see these letters all of a sudden, people wanted to capitalize, see an opportunity to capture indigenous people to sell, to bring back. i promise i was going to end there, but i'm going to add one more thing. this is a cycle that continues until king philip's war in 1675, 1676, when thousands of indigenous captives are sold out of new england. upwards of 2500 people are captured and sold to the west indies. most of them are actually sold by the colony of massachusetts, not merchants, but by
11:50 am
the colony trying to recover the cost of war. so many indigenous captives are being sold out of new england to barbados and to jamaica that both of those colonies ban the further importation of indigenous new englanders. so they ban the further importation of indigenous warriors from new england. so this tells you the scope and the volume of that exchange. so my apologies for going on forever. but yes. wait for the mic. >> are you aware of any changes that are happening in the school textbooks in history and has anyone been contacting you about trying to update and present the real story so that children will have a better idea of what really happened. >> for me personally, no. i know there is a push to get my book in high school from the
11:51 am
press and they have looked into that option. most of my work has been on the public history front. so i've done quite a bit of work with old north and a few other groups in boston. and they've begun to move and nathaniel hall is doing the same thing, to move to the front and in their edition cal programs. i think at some point the dam is going to break and you're going to see the changes happening in text book and things like that. one of the remarkable things, given this talk a number of times now, is how many people come up and tell me i never learned this story. i didn't know this. so i'm hoping, right, that i think of myself as part of -- like i said this is a conversation going on and i think it is a larger conversation and i hope that dam is about to break and we see it spread to elementary school curriculum. so thanks. yeah.
11:52 am
yes. >> what made you become so interested in this topic? >> it is a long story but i'll try to keep it short. it was actually started at fairly pragmatic. my ph.d is from boston college. since i was an undergraduate i knew i was wanted to study history and the history of slavery. but i always thought because i was irned in the history of slavery, i thought i would be a historian. and i realize that graduate school takes a lot more time and you want to be pragmatic and i wanted to compare all of the colonies and i had to learn a couple of foreign languages and i dpn i didn't want to be in graduate school for a decade. so i started looking and i did some reading and i realized there wasn't a vast literature on slavery in new england. and then there hadn't been anything on boston. there is histories of slavery in new york and philadelphia, but
11:53 am
why not boston? the third major city. and i'll take a look. and one of my graduate advisers alan rodgers informed me about the files that i mentioned in my talk, this massive collection of court file records but it is hard to navigate but just go take a look and low and behold i found testimonies and depositions of enslaved people from boston and i've never seen that before in the english language record. i read about it, because the inquisition would record it. but now could i write a history of slavery in boston but say something about enslaved people and their lives more generally. so i became excited about it. and i end up writing the first book. but this back came out of a frustration with writing that book which is when i embarked on the research for the first book, i wanted a short history to give me an overview so i would have a
11:54 am
reference work or something. and there is a couple of books that kind of work. but they weren't particularly short and they didn't have a lot of further reading. there were bibliographies and so that is what i wanted to do. this was a pragmatic concern but and when i got into the process of writing, i realized we're at a cross roads with all of the different people talking to each other and in the process of writing the first book, i met so many other scholars who are working on slavery in new england and public historians, and educators and activists doing this work and i thought this is bigger than just my kind of scholarly needs. this is warranting a public conversation. is there any other questions?
11:55 am
[ applause ] >> so in your research, did you come across anything specific to gingham? >> not that -- you see all of the towns and records and things like this when you look at census, but i did not come across anything in particular to hingham. though my first book sh i learned from my michelle, i ended up writing a couple of thing about slave owners and hingham was part of the county, so a couple of slave owners who were from here. yeah. great. welcome thank you all for coming. [ applause ]
11:56 am
>> thank you all so much. for those of you who would like to meet jared, he's up here signing bhook plates. if you ordered a book with your ticket, they'll arrive tomorrow. thank you. and if we could form a line here in front of the podium. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past, c-span3, created by america's cable television company as a public service and brought to you today by your television
11:57 am
provider. >> weeknight this is month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span3. tonight, oral histories with foot soldiers from the 1960s civil right movement, beginning with gloria grinnell who talks about participating in the 1960 lunch counter sit-in protest during as a time as a student at virginia university and describes the culture shock she experienced as a californian attending college in virginia. watch nnt at 8:00 eastern. enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. >> each week american history tv american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places and coming up next we travel 45 minutes west of new orleans to visit whitney plantation to learn about the


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on