Presentation Title

Unknown Catalyst for Abolition

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Location

Watkins 1117

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Abstract

In the late eighteenth century slaves in the state of Massachusetts were proactive in gaining their freedom. As a result of the type of master and slave relationship in Massachusetts, slaves were better educated, better versed in the English language, and more aware of political events around them than slaves in other states. Specifically, the slaves were knowledgeable about the Declaration of Independence and the Massachusetts’ Constitution of 1780, which featured the Enlightenment ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Consequently, they were able to legally fight for their right to liberty. The slaves’ assertive legal claims were seen in the Mum Bett and Quock Walker court cases, as well as slave petitions of the period. The cases resulted in the legal termination of slavery in 1783 in Massachusetts, which set a precedent that spread throughout the New England states. By 1790 there were no enslaved persons left in Massachusetts. The purpose of this project was to explore the specific ways that the slaves were proactive in gaining their freedom through analysis of court documents, slave petitions, and journals of the time period.

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Nov 12th, 3:45 PM Nov 12th, 4:00 PM

Unknown Catalyst for Abolition

Watkins 1117

In the late eighteenth century slaves in the state of Massachusetts were proactive in gaining their freedom. As a result of the type of master and slave relationship in Massachusetts, slaves were better educated, better versed in the English language, and more aware of political events around them than slaves in other states. Specifically, the slaves were knowledgeable about the Declaration of Independence and the Massachusetts’ Constitution of 1780, which featured the Enlightenment ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Consequently, they were able to legally fight for their right to liberty. The slaves’ assertive legal claims were seen in the Mum Bett and Quock Walker court cases, as well as slave petitions of the period. The cases resulted in the legal termination of slavery in 1783 in Massachusetts, which set a precedent that spread throughout the New England states. By 1790 there were no enslaved persons left in Massachusetts. The purpose of this project was to explore the specific ways that the slaves were proactive in gaining their freedom through analysis of court documents, slave petitions, and journals of the time period.