This session will consider two papers. “‘Is this where Titus lived?’ Researching and Interpreting African-American Presence in 18th-Century Rural New England,” by Barbara A. Mathews, and “The Body of Liberties and Bodies in Bondage: Dorcas the Blackmore, Dorchester’s First Church, and the Legalization of Slavery in the Anglo-Atlantic World,” by Gloria McCahon Whiting.
Mathews’s paper draws on a remarkable cache of documentation preserved by early antiquarians of Deerfield, Massachusetts. It discusses the preliminary results of research into slavery in the 18th-century town, focusing on the ways in which slavery was inextricably bound up in the social, economic, and political web that defined a closely-knit rural community. Drawing on the work of Joanne Pope Melish, it also explores the broader implications of this history and its preservation even as Deerfielders in company with other New Englanders disassociated themselves in the decades before and after the Civil War from the region’s slave-holding history.
Whiting’s paper contextualizes the lived experience of one of the Bay Colony’s first African slaves to argue that slavery was bound up with democracy in the colony’s early years; that race shaped servitude from the colony’s founding; that Puritan religion provided slaves with unique opportunities for family building; that family was linked to freedom for the region’s early blacks; that Africans were building kin networks—and whites were recognizing them—from the first decades of Puritan settlement; and that the histories of whites and blacks, of powerful men and their polyglot households, and of law and social relations are inextricably linked.close