James Mars (1790 – 1880)

James Mars was born in Connecticut in 1790 and spent the better part of his youth a slave working for various owners—once fleeing to the woods with his family to avoid being relocated to the South. At age twenty-five he became a free man and moved to Hartford where he became a leader in the local African American community, most famously petitioning the state General Assembly requesting they give black men the right to vote. Later in life he penned his memoir, Life of James Mars: A Slave Born and Sold in Connecticut, which serves as one of the more famous accounts of slave life in early New England.

Learn More


Connecticut Freedom Trail. “James Mars Gravesite,” 2016. 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.
Doughty, Thomas M. V. “Photograph - James Mars, Winsted,” ca 1870. Connecticut History Online, Connecticut Historical Society. Link.


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.
Mars, James. Life of James Mars, a Slave: Born and Sold in Connecticut. Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Company, 1870.