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 United States. 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.
More on Slavery and Abolition from the CT Digital ArchiveBrowse more interactive content on the CT Digital Archive website.
Venture Smith, from Slavery to Freedom
Smith’s account sheds light on the experience of enslaved and free blacks in 18th-century Connecticut. …[more]
Yale University, Gilder Lerhman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition. “Citizens ALL: African Americans in Connecticut 1700-1850,” 2016. Link.
Yale University: Gilder Lerhman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition. “Citizens ALL: African Americans in Connecticut 1700-1850 - Overview of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” 2007. Link.
“Connecticut Freedom Trail,” 2016. Link.
Yale University - Yale, Slavery & Abolition. “The Story of Yale Abolitionists,” 2016. Link.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. “The Amistad Center for Art & Culture,” 2016. 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 - Fugitive Slave AD - Ten Dollars Reward!,” 1803. Connecticut History Illustrated, Connecticut Historical Society. Link.
“Broadside - The Fugitive Slave Law.” Hartford, CT, ca 1850. Library of Congress, American Memory. Link.
“Certification of the Purchase of Barkus Fox by Beriah Bill,” 1781. Connecticut History Online. Link.
Connecticut State Library. “Log Book of Slave Traders between New London and Africa, 1757-8,” 2012. Link.
“Manumission of Hannah White,” 1794. Connecticut History Online. Link.
Connecticut State Library. “Newspapers of Connecticut: Charter Oak (ca. 1838-1843) - Digital Newspaper Archive,” n.d. 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.
Connecticut State Library. “Research Guide to Materials Relating to Slavery in Connecticut,” 2016. Link.
Caron, Denis. A Century in Captivity: The Life and Trials of Prince Mortimer, a Connecticut Slave. Hanover, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2006.
Normen, Elizabeth J., ed. 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.
Sweet, John Wood. Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730-1830. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.
Farrow, Anne, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank. Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2005.
Hempstead, Joshua. Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut, Covering a Period of Forty-Seven Years, from September 1711, to November, 1758. New London, CT: The New London County Historical Society, 1901. 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.
Di Bonaventura, Allegra. For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2013.
Steiner, Bernard C. History of Slavery in Connecticut. Edited by Herbert B. Adams. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1893. Link.
Saint, Chandler B., and George A. Krimsky. Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2009.
Essig, James D. The Bonds of Wickedness: American Evangelicals Against Slavery, 1770-1808. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1982.
Farrow, Anne. The Logbooks Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2014.
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.
Connecticut’s African American History. WNPR: The Colin McEnroe Show, 2014. Link.
The Logbooks: Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory. WSHU, 2015. Link.