What role did New England play in the history of slavery?
Purchase
Second edition. October 2008.

The fact that thousands of enslaved people lived in New England rarely makes it into U.S. history textbooks. This curriculum unit explores the nature of the triangular trade and the extent of slavery in New England. Using readings, primary sources, and simulations, students uncover the effects of the slave trade and slavery for Americans and explore how history, and the telling of history, affects us today.

Readings

Background readings examine the slave trade and Rhode Island’s significant role in it and the institution of slavery in New England.

LESSONS

Creating a Living Museum

Students use drama to demonstrate historical knowledge by developing a character involved in the triangular trade and performing for classmates.

Slavery Connects the North and the South

Utilizing primary source documents students reconstruct the route of an actual slave ship and explore different facets of the slave trade, such as social attitudes and financial dimensions.

Enslaved People's Experiences

Using source material such as paintings, statistics, poetry, photographs, and gravestones, students develop a comprehensive understanding of the experiences of enslaved people in New England.

Role-Playing the Four Options

Students work cooperatively using primary sources to present the four options Rhode Islanders debated at the time. A fourth group plays real townspeople, who ask questions of and evaluate the option groups.

Designing a Museum Exhibit

Students apply their knowledge of slavery in the North by working cooperatively to conceive and design a museum exhibit.
VIDEOS
Why does the misperception that slavery only happened in the southern United States exist?
What was unique about the African slave trade in the Americas?
What was life like for enslaved people in New England?
What were the arguments for and against abolition?
VIEW ALL

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support in teaching the teaching the curriculum.

BOOKS

Anne Farrow, Anne, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank (of The Hartford Courant): Complicity -- How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited From Slavery,'' (New York: Ballantine Books)

Cottrol, Robert, ed. From African to Yankee: Narratives of Slavery and Freedom in Antebellum New England (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1998) 222 pages.

Coughtry, Jay. The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade, 1700-1807 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981) 285 pages.

Greene, Lorenzo J. The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776 (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1966) 404 pages.

Horton, James, and Lois Horton. In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) 340 pages.

Litwack, Leon F. North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) 319 pages.

Melish, Joanne Pope. Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and "Race" in New England, 1780-1860 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998) 285 pages.

Rappleye, Charles. Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006) 352 pages.

Sweet, John Wood. Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730-1830 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003) 409 pages.

Zilversmit, Arthur. The First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967) 243 pages.

WEB LINKS
Brown University's research and education committee investigating the university's ties to slave trading and other topics.
The interactive Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database contains more than 34,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866.
Library of Congress online exhibition with graphics, primary sources, and historical narrative.
Explores the history of blacks in Newport, Rhode Island.
Several hundred images relating to the slave trade, including maps, housed at the University of Virginia
Documents, images, and history tracing one girl's journey from Africa to America, and her descendant's return visit to Sierra Leone
Timelines, resources, narratives, and lesson plans associated with the PBS television series.
The New York Historical Society's exhibition includes online resources and educational materials.
Describes the upcoming feature documentary about the DeWolf family of Bristol, Rhode Island, the largest slave-trading family in the United States.
Brown University has collected and digitized historical documents pertaining to the voyage of the slave ship Sally in 1764-65 using an interface that encourages exploration of the historical, economic, and social context.
Back to top