Slavery in Connecticut dates as far back as the mid-1600s. Connecticut’s growing agricultural industry fostered slavery’s expansion, and by the time of the American Revolution, Connecticut had the largest number of slaves in New England. After the war, new ideas about freedom and the rights of men brought about the movement to end slavery in the US. In contrast to neighboring states, however, Connecticut emancipated its slaves very slowly and cautiously, claiming it wanted to ensure the process respected property rights and did not disrupt civic order. Connecticut passed the Gradual Abolition Act of 1784, but this act did not emancipate any enslaved persons, only those who would be born into slavery and only after they reached the age of 25. This gradual process meant that slavery in Connecticut did not officially end until 1848—long after many other Northern states had abolished the practice.
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Bontemps, Arna. Five Black Lives: The Autobiographies of Venture Smith, James Mars, William Grimes, the Rev. G. W. Offley, and James L. Smith. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1987.
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Essig, James D. The Bonds of Wickedness: American Evangelicals Against Slavery, 1770-1808. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1982.
Cruson, Daniel. The Slaves of Central Fairfield County: The Journey from Slave to Freeman in Nineteenth-Century Connecticut. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
Strother, Horatio T. The Underground Railroad in Connecticut. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1962. Link.
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