Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? Continue reading
Tag Archives: slavery
What is this?
Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it?
The true price of slavery
When the men and children aboard la Amistad decided to take over the ship and return home, they initiated one of the more memorable events in Connecticut’s history. Steven Spielberg even made a movie about it. But some people actually lived it, like Charlotte Cowles of Farmington, Connecticut, and we are fortunate that she wrote about it. When the Africans were finally set free, they settled for a time in Farmington, and one of the children, a girl called Kenyeh, lived with Charlotte’s family.
Charlotte’s letters to her brother are full of anti-slavery sentiments and relate her many activities against the institution. She also writes about helping slaves escape north, so we know she knew Africans and African Americans. However, it is not until she meets the Africans from the Amistad, who had never been enslaved, that she truly understands the horrors of slavery. I will let her tell you in her own words: Continue reading
Elihu Burritt of New Britain, Connecticut, was a noted social advocate. Among his causes were temperance, world peace, and the abolition of slavery. It took many years of devoted lobbying before he was able to call for a national emancipation convention, which is what this broadside advertises. The lists are names of men who pledged themselves to support the Convention.
Burritt was an advocate of the concept of Compensated Emancipation in which the Southern slave owners would be paid for their slaves from the proceeds of the sale of public lands. He saw this as not only freeing the slaves but removing the sectional tension that threatened the Union. The convention was held in August 1856. Burritt continued to push his cause and was beginning to make headway when John Brown’s Raid “closed the door against all overtures or efforts for the peaceful extinction of slavery” (The American Advocate of Peace and Arbitration, Vol. 53, No. 1 January 1891, p.8).
The Research Center has a number of printed works and manuscripts related to Burritt. You can see the list of materials by clicking here. We also have materials related to antislavery, emancipation, and slavery itself. You can search our online catalog for more information. This particular broadside can be studied by requesting Broadsides Small 1857 C156b in the Research Center.
Abduhl Rahhaman’s Story
One of our long term projects involves making sense of the many documents boxed together (years ago) and labeled “Miscellaneous Letters.” This morning I found another gem in the collection. It does not have an accession number, nor do we have any idea as to its provenance. Regardless, it is quite an interesting read.
Click to enlarge the image. You may come and view this in person, too. Visit our webpage for hours and directions.
Know All Men by These Presents
A recent addition to our collection is a deed in which the widow Easter Smith of Middletown, Connecticut, transferred all her rights, title and interest in the real and personal estate of her late husband Rev. Joseph Smith, to their only son Joseph. Included in the transfer is “also all the right, title or interest I have in, or to Cloys a negro man which belonged to my Husband aforesaid.” All of these possessions were to go to son Joseph, however, after Easter’s decease. The document was signed 18 December 1738.
Esther, who was born 1672, was the daughter of Joseph Parsons, one of the first settlers of Northampton, Mass. Joseph was installed in the church in Middletown in 1715. Esther lived with her son Joseph until her death May 30, 1760, at the age of 89. The son Joseph in his 1768 left Cloys (also found in the record as Cliop, Peter and Cleops) equally to his five sons with the stipulation that he not be sold out of the family and that he be cared for when infirm.
Northerners in general are reluctant to admit that their forebears owned slaves. This document is yet one more piece of proof that the “peculiar institution” was alive and well in Connecticut in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Ask for Ms 101144 should you come and visit.
No matter how many I see, I still get the chills when reading and handling a bill of sale for a person. We recently acquired just such a document. Benjamin Payne of Hartford sold a Negro Woman named Minnah to Samuel Forbes of Canaan for fifty-two pounds, ten shillings. This particular bill of sale caught our attention because Samuel Forbes, of the iron manufacturing firm Forbes & Adam, freed his slaves sometime around the Revolution, and his account books (which was recently acquired) are filled with customers he identified as “Negro”, individuals who were obviously freemen. One cannot help but wonder why Forbes had such a dramatic change of heart about owning human beings in an apparently short span of time.