Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island (Early American Places, 12) History text books inaccurately depict Rhode Island’s role in slavery as the state in the north with the highest percentage of slaves; Rhode Island’s mariners profited from the slave trade by transporting slaves and molasses; then distilling molasses into spirits… Samuel Hopkins preached his first sermon against slavery and the slave trade, calling them terrible sins. The Rhode Island Slave Trade: A Reading List. Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has everything to do with slavery. An Education at Sea: Farm Boys and the Slave Trade. Yet of the records examined between 1782 and 1800, some 37 percent had been in the town five years or longer, and 26 percent had been there for 10 years or longer. Rhode Island did play a role in the transatlantic slave trade, launching more than 1,000 voyages to bring slaves from Africa to the U.S., the AP reported. While Newport merchants profited by trafficking in slaves, colonists across the Narragansett Bay found another way to grow rich. Admission is free to the RIHS Robinson Research Center for all RI residents and all students. After 1718, for instance, if any black slave was caught in the cottage of a free black person, both were whipped. Plantations in the North: The Narragansett Planters. The slave triangle was the exportation and importation of slaves. Slavery was the global economic engine prior to its abolition and Rhode Island’s role in this business of slavery was significant. As early as 1708, slaves outnumbered white indentured servants in the colony almost 8 to 1. By 1807, black seamen made up 21% of Newport crews. When Kristin Hayes teaches slavery, she shows her students a colorful mural depicting a white man on a horse overseeing bare-chested slaves toiling in a field. Buying and Selling Human Beings: Newport and the Slave Trade. Brown University researchers say around 60% of all slave-trading voyages launched from North America came from Rhode Island. By 1774, Rhode Island's 3,761 blacks were the third highest total in New England. But Rhode Island ruled the slave trade. Bristol and Providence also prospered from it. Living Off the Trade: Bristol and the DeWolfs. Commercial success bred a wealthy class that became a slaveowning aristocracy. Little Rhode Island generally had a smaller population of black slaves than its neighbors, Massachusetts and Connecticut, but with a very small white population as well, Rhode Island's blacks made up a higher percentage of the total population than elsewhere in New England. Fourteen years ago, I wrote a series of stories about Rhode Island’s deep role in the slave trade. But blacks were increasingly its targets, out of proportion to their numbers and without regard to whether they were long-term residents or not. No Simple Truth: The Reverend MacSparran and his Slaves. Strangers in a Strange Land: Newport’s Slaves. Slave Traders in the Family: Probing a Dark Past. In February 1784, the Rhode Island Legislature passed a compromise measure for gradual emancipation of slaves within the state. Legislation against slave-trading proved difficult to enforce in Rhode Island. 1 Boye Slave Dyed: The Terrible Voyage of the Sally. It is evident that the involvement of R.I. citizens in the slave trade was widespread and abundant. Rhode Island outlawed slave trading in 1787, but it didn't stop the trafficking. In 1770, the Rev. The white population had grown since mid-century, but the colony's slaves still made up 6.3% percent of the total population, almost twice as high as any other New England colony. 2. Rhode Island's government jealously protected its slaves. 1. Slavery and the Slave Trade in Rhode Island. Newport, the colony's leading slave port, took an estimated 59,070 slaves to America before the Revolution. The runaway law of 1714 penalized ferrymen who carried any slave out of the colony without a certificate from their masters. As a Rhode Island historian writes, "All together, 204 different Rhode Island citizens owned a share or more in a slave voyage at one time or another. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order Monday that could change the state's official name to exclude a portion that has ties to slavery. By the close of the eighteenth century, Rhode Islanders had mounted at least a thousand voyages from Africa to the Americas. The Rev. And, in an essential element of the 1784 compromise, the right of Rhode Island ship-owners to participate in the foreign slave trade was undisturbed. Slaves that were not auctioned off were put to work aboard merchant ships. James MacSparran doted on his slaves -- and he beat them. Inquiries can be sent to [email protected] . It was not until the last decades of the 18th century that the former New England colonies began the long process of outlawing slavery via emancipation statutes. The biggest increase in black population fell in the years from 1715 to 1755, which coincided with the industrial development of the colony and its emergence into the slave trade. Narragansett planters used their slaves both as laborers and domestic servants. He was found not guilty. "When James Brown sent the Mary to Africa in 1736, he launched Providence into the Negro traffic and laid the foundation for the Brown fortune. On sloops and ships called Endeavor, Success and Wheel of Fortune, slave captains made more than 1,000 voyages to Africa from 1725 to 1807. In February 1784 the Legislature passed a compromise measure for gradual emancipation. Plantation owners calculated a slave's working life to be about seven years. New England governments began to step in as well, outlawing active slave trades in the Connecticut and Rhode Island colonies. "Basically, my people arrived under the Mayflower," said Charles Roberts, chairman of Rhode Island Slave History Medallions. Not only did Rhode Islanders have slaves—they had more per capita than any other New England state—but they also entered with gusto into the trade. Robert Hazard of South Kingstown owned 12,000 acres and had 24 slave women just to work in his dairy. Click HERE for a full list of sources used in this reporting. The following secondary sources were used for The Unrighteous Traffic, Rhode Island and the Slave Trade. William Robinson owned an estate that was more than four miles long and two miles wide, and he kept about 40 slaves there. In states like Rhode Island, which banned slavery in 1843, slavery continued until just before the Civil War. From this year until 1790, the Browns played a commanding role in the New England slave trade. © Gannett Co., Inc. 2020. Rhode Island established the first law regulating slavery on May 18, 1652, as part of the Acts and Orders of the General Court of Warwick. Black slaves were in Rhode Island by 1652, and by the end of that century Rhode Island had become the only New England colony to use slaves for both labor and trade. Not everyone was happy about it. Rhode Island never had large farms on the scale of slave plantations in the South, but it certainly did have slaves. Living Off the Trade: Bristol and the DeWolfs. The figure was up to 22 percent by the 1790s, and 50 percent by 1800. “His book, The Notorious Triangle [Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade], is one of the best resources about Rhode Island’s involvement in the slave trade,” Bean said. Abraham Redwood: Antigua and the West Indies Trade. As in other New England colonies with many slaves, masters had to be prevented by law from turning out their old and feeble slaves. Dark Work, The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island by Christy Clark-Pujara (New York University Press, 2016) Precious little was ever published in the nineteenth century on Rhode Island’s role in either the slave trade or slavery in general. During the Revolution, Quaker abolitionists and the powerful Newport shipping interest clashed over slavery. Rhode Island's 1729 ordinance required a master to post bond of £100 before manumission, to insure the ex-slave would not become a public charge. "[1] Their donations to Rhode Island College were so generous that the name was changed to Brown University. Rhode Island played a leading role in the transatlantic slave trade. What’s in a name? In the early 19th century, Rhode Island towns especially turned to the old New England custom of "warning out" strangers to purify themselves racially. Image: Narragansett Planters Painting by Ernest Hamlin Baker, 1939 A grist mill and sacks of corn being towed by oxen – most of the harvested grain was likely kept in the Colony for consumption by the planters and their livestock. Brown vs. Brown: Brothers go head to head. Rhode Island, of course, was among the most active Northern colonies in importing slaves. In the mid-18th century, Rhode Island had the highest proportion of slave-to-white of any colony in the North. All children of slaves born … Evidence of the participation of Rhode Islanders in the slave trade during the 18th and 19th centuries can be found in the collections at the Rhode Island Historical Society listed below. Lorenzo Johnston Greene, The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776. A study of Rhode Island records showed that only 5 percent of the transients warned out in the 1750s were identifiable as black. Tells the story of one state in particular whose role in the slave trade was outsized: Rhode Island Historians have written expansively about the slave economy and its vital role in early American economic life. In February 1784, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a gradual emancipation law that increased the ratio of the free black population in Rhode Island to 78 percent by the 1790 U.S. Census and that would ultimately eliminate slavery in Rhode Island by 1842. Burned out by social work in Washington, D.C., she sought refuge in a seminary school overlooking San Francisco Bay. Rhode Island Slaves. Rhode Island's early history with slavery was complicated Rhode Island passed what is considered the first slavery ban in the U.S. colonies. All children of slaves born after March 1 were to be "apprentices," the girls to become free at 18, the boys at 21. In parts of "South Country" (as Narragansett also was called), one-third of the population was black work force by the mid-18th century. Stephen Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, introduced a bill while serving in the Rhode Island Assembly in 1774 that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony, and this became one of the first anti-slavery laws in the United States. Its very depth means that it’s also very, very long — 15 stories, many of which would take more than a page of newsprint to republish. Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island (Early American Places, 12) [Clark-Pujara, Christy] on Amazon.com. Shipboard Revolt: Not an Unusual Occurrence. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that the subject was addressed in any detail. Rhode Island owned behemoth amount of slaves compared to all the other English colonies. The Newport merchants who trafficked in human cargo were among the town's richest residents. SLAVERY in RHODE ISLAND. SLAVERY IN RHODE ISLAND: R.I. did more than traffic in slaves. The first ship to leave Providence for Africa was sent by James Brown in 1735, but only a smattering of ships departed from that port before the Revolutionary War. However, few colonial leaders wanted a full repeal of slavery at the time. While Newport merchants profited by trafficking in slaves, colonists across the Narragansett Bay found another way to grow rich. Slavery in Rhode Island, 1755 1776 (Classic Reprint) | Johnston, William D. | ISBN: 9781333556235 | Kostenloser Versand für alle Bücher mit Versand und Verkauf duch Amazon. The following secondary sources were used for The Unrighteous Traffic, Rhode Island and the Slave Trade. The Newport merchants who trafficked in human cargo were among the town’s richest … But less attention has been paid so far to the historic plantation economy of South County, R.I. … Rhode Island’s outsized role in slavery isn’t such a hidden secret anymore. In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchants controlled between 60 and 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves. Slaves worked and lived in all 13 colonies. One estimate puts the number of slaves imported by Rhode Island merchants at slightly over 100,000 in the century before 1808, a number which would represent 20% of all slaves ever imported to the United States. Click on bold collection titles to access an inventory for that collection. Reports of the city's overseers of the poor from the early 19th century show no great disproportionate burden on taxpayers for care of indigent blacks. In the first years after the Revolution, it is estimated that Rhode Island merchants were responsible for importing an outright majority of the slaves who arrived. Rhode Island and the Slave Trade: Teaching the truth. Slave Traders in the Family: Probing a Dark Past. Rhode Island Gov. This tended to make slave laws more severe in Rhode Island. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Rhode Island's black population tripled from 1715 to 1730, and almost tripled again by 1755. From 5.9% in 1708, black slaves rose to account for 11.5% of the colony's population by 1755. The acquittal convinced many that the new legislation was useless against the wealthy and powerful. Rhode Island had a major role in the history of slavery in the United States. Slavery in Rhode Island, 1755-1776 | Johnston, Translator William | ISBN: 9781230466699 | Kostenloser Versand für alle Bücher mit Versand und Verkauf duch Amazon. Rhode Island was, for a time, the center of the slave trade in New England, a fact that Linford Fisher, associate professor of history at Brown University, said Rhode … "The intrenched position of the slaveholders is clearly seen in this law, for all public officers of the colony and all citizens as well were charged with arresting, securing the slave, and notifying his master."[2]. Newport was the hub of New England's slave trade, and at its height, slaves made up one-fifth of its population. After 1750, anyone who sold so much as a cup of hard cider to a black slave faced a crushing fine of £30. Slavery in Rhode Island may have begun with the colony’s establishment in 1636. About 100 leagues off the west coast of Africa, the Newport slave ship Little George bobbed in the darkness. For the state of Rhode Island, years of acrimony over an official designation with connotations of slavery. The first African slaves brought to Rhode Island arrived in 1696, when a Boston ship, the Seaflower , brought 47 slaves from Africa and sold 14 in Newport. The law against thefts by slaves in Rhode Island was, again, the severest in New England, carrying a sentence that could be 15 lashes or even banishment from the colony -- a particularly dreaded punishment, as it usually meant deportation and sale to the merciless sugar plantations of the West Indies. How did the smallest colony and smallest state in the union became the largest American participant in the slave trade? Rhode Island was deeply involved in the slave triangle. Rhode Island merchants played a key role in the transatlantic slave trade, launching more than 1,000 voyages to buy and transport slaves from Africa to the Americas. All Rights Reserved. But Rhode Island sea captains were very active in the slave trade that began to bring Africans in large numbers to America (after Roger’s time), and slavery existed here in Rhode Island, as well. Slave-based economies existed in the Narragansett plantation family, the Middletown crop workers, and the indentured and slave craftsmen of Newport. Vote YES! The Rhode Island Slave History Medallion organization is a statewide public awareness program committed to marking those historic sites connected to the history of slavery in Rhode Island. Rhode Island merchants played a key role in the transatlantic slave trade, launching more than 1,000 voyages to buy and transport slaves from Africa to the Americas. The 1800 census listed 384 slaves, and the number fell gradually to 5 in 1840, after which slaves were no longer counted in the censuses for the state. At least six of them -- James and his brother Obadiah, and James's four sons, Nicholas, John, Joseph, and Moses -- ran one of the biggest slave-trading businesses in New England, and for more than half a century the family reaped huge profits from the slave trade. Few Newport merchants knew more about sugar and slaves than Abraham Redwood. Brown University and the Episcopal Diocese, among others, now acknowledge they benefited from slavery. For Rhode Islanders, slavery had provided a major new profit sector and an engine for trade in the West Indies." N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1942, p.30n. South Kingstown had perhaps the harshest local slave control laws in New England. Slave ships leaving Newport tended to be smaller than their English competitors, and manned by smaller crews. John Brown, a merchant, state representative, and powerful slaveholder, was tried in 1796 for violating the federal Slave Trade Act of 1794, which prohibited ships destined to transport slaves to any foreign country from outfitting in American ports. Such laws existed in neighboring colonies, but Rhode Island's was particularly severe in its penalties, and in the zeal with which the machinery of state was put to work in recovering human property, which was reminiscent of the hated Fugitive Slave Law of a later day. In this summer where racial injustice is at the forefront of our nation’s concerns, several readers suggested that we republish Paul Davis’ 2006 Journal series “Unrighteous Traffick,” which discussed the history of slavery in Rhode Island. By the year 1774, 6.3 percent of Rhode Islands population were slaves. In recent decades, prominent families have helped unearth the truth about ancestors who were slave traders. As was the case throughout the North, Rhode Island, having ended slavery, also sought to make it difficult for blacks to remain in the state or move there. Others like New Hampshire and New Jersey never banned slavery. We hope it will also be a resource for schools, so that as Rhode Island discusses racial issues in the future, the conversation continues to be enlightened by knowledge of our past. After overtaking Boston by 1750, Newport and Bristol were the major slave markets in the American colonies. A brief biography on the folks who made this project possible. That's comparable to the proportion of slaves in the Old South states in 1820. In keeping with the usual pattern, a higher percentage of blacks meant a more strict control mechanism. Paul’s series shed considerable light on current debates. ibid., p.129. The colonists enslaved and sold Native Americans, too. Providence, after 1785, apparently made wholesale evictions of blacks who were deemed "liable to become chargeable." Masters had the right to search any ship they suspected of harboring a runaway, under a 1757 law. Rhode Island outlawed slave trading in 1787, but it didn't stop the trafficking. In Narragansett County, conditions favored large-scale farming, and here more than anywhere else in the North a system began to emerge that looked like the Southern plantation colonies. The Browns, one of the great mercantile families of colonial America, were Rhode Island slave traders. The medallion reads simply, “Rhode Island Slave History,” and features artwork inspired by Pompe Stevens, whose work is known to be among the first signed African artwork in the United States. Thats just about two times more than all the other colonies. This series was originally published in September of 2006. Slave-based economies existed in the Narragansett plantation family, the Middletown crop workers, and the indentured and slave … "Plymouth Rock landed on us." The custom continued to have as a stated goal the removal of poor and undesirable strangers from a community. A year later, he saw his ship, the "Hope," confiscated for violations. But there is no evidence that it was ever enforced. Between 1709 and 1807, Rhode Island merchants sponsored at least 934 slaving voyages to the coast of Africa and carried an estimated 106,544 slaves to the New World. No slaves were emancipated outright. Vote YES! But it wasn’t accessible to current readers. The first slaves in the colony were surely Native Americans, not Africans. Our Hidden History: A new effort to examine race and ethnicity, An ongoing discussion of racial justice, slavery and Rhode Island’s history by contributors to the Providence Journal, Paul Davis: How I wrote The Journal’s series on slavery in Rhode Island. Slavery by the British began in North America when they brought the first African enslaved captives to the colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. So instead, we are relaunching the series online, where it will be available to all Rhode Islanders to illuminate our current controversies for free. From 1732-64, Rhode Islanders sent annually 18 ships, bearing 1,800 hogsheads of rum, to Africa to trade for slaves, earning £40,000 annually. This rose sharply after the end of slavery, however. The Stantons of Narragansett, who were among the province's leading landowners, had at least 40 slaves. Black slaves were in Rhode Island by 1652, and by the end of that century Rhode Island had become the only New England colony to use slaves for both labor and trade. As with other Northern instances of gradual emancipation, this gave slaveowners many years of service to recoup the cost of raising the children. After overtaking Boston by 1750, Newport and Bristol were the major slave markets in the American colonies. Business of slavery, however made this project possible originally published in September of 2006 -- and he them. 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