Slavery in Massachussetts

Slavery in Massachussetts


Massachusetts was the first slave-holding colony in New England. Circumstantial evidence gives a date that the first certain reference to African slavery is in connection with the bloody Pequot War in 1637. The Pequot Indians of central Connecticut, pressed hard by encroaching European settlements, struck back and attacked the town of Wetherfield. A few months later, Massachusetts and Connecticut militias joined forces and raided the Pequot village near Mystic, Connecticut. Of the few Indians who escaped slaughter, the women and children were enslaved in New England, of 1624-1629 for the first slaves.

The colonies started to make trades with other countries, exchanging their ship cargo for Salt, cotton, tobacco and Negroes. Such exchanges became routine during subsequent Indian war. Most, if not all, of the limited 17th century New England slave trade, was in the hands of Massachusetts. Boston merchants made New England's first attempt at direct import of slaves from West Africa to the West Indies in 1644.

By 1676, however, Boston ships had pioneered a slave trade to Madagascar, and they were selling black human beings to Virginians by 1678. For the home market, the Puritans generally took the Africans to the West Indies and sold them in exchange for a few experienced slaves, which they brought back to New England. Massachusetts merchants and ships were supplying slaves to Connecticut by 1680 and Rhode Island by 1696. Massachusetts slave population jumped to about 2,000 in 1715. It reached its largest percentage of the total population between 1755 and 1764. The slaves concentrated in the industrial and seaside towns, however, and Boston was about 10 percent black in 1752.

Massachusetts, like many American colonies, had roots in a scrupulous fundamentalist Protestantism. Christianity was no barrier to slave-ownership. The Puritans regarded themselves as God's Elect, and so they had no difficulty with slavery. Puritans...

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