Slavery and Abolition

Ad announcing reward for runaway slave, 1803
Ad announcing reward for runaway slave, 1803
- Connecticut Historical Society and Connecticut History Online

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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“Connecticut Freedom Trail,” 2012. Link.
“Guide to the ‘Amistad Affair.’” Connecticut State Library, 2012. Link.
“The Story of Yale Abolitionists.” Yale, Slavery & Abolition, 2007. Link.


“Acts and Laws of the State of Connecticut, in America - Slaves.” Governor and Company of the State of Connecticut, 1784. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Link.
“Broadside - 1803 Fugitive Slave,” 1803. Connecticut History Online, Connecticut Historical Society. Link.
“Broadside - The Fugitive Slave Law.” Hartford, CT, 1850. Library of Congress, American Memory. Link.
“Certification of the Purchase of Barkus Fox by Beriah Bill,” 1781. Connecticut History Online. Link.
“Charter Oak - Digital Newspaper Archive.” Connecticut State Library, 2012. Link.
“Log Book of Slave Traders between New London and Africa, 1757-8.” Connecticut State Library, 2012. Link.
“Manumission of Hannah White,” 1794. Connecticut History Online. Link.
Mars, James. “North American Slave Narratives - Life of James Mars, a Slave Born and Sold in Connecticut. Written by Himself.” Documenting the American South - University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1868. Link.
“Research Guide to Materials Relating to Slavery in Connecticut.” Connecticut State Library, 2012. Link.


Normen, Elizabeth J. African American Connecticut Explored. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2013.
Greene, Evarts Boutell, Virginia D. Harrington, and Columbia University Council for Research in the Social Sciences. American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790. Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1966.
Farrow, Anne, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank. Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2005.
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.
Steiner, Bernard C. History of Slavery in Connecticut. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1893.
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.
Hinks, Peter. “Timothy Dwight, Congregationalism, and Early Antislavery.” In The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, and the Ambiguities of American Reform. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
Stewart, James Brewer. Venture Smith and the Business of Slavery and Freedom. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010.
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