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Enslavement occurred throughout the Lyme region, and the 1790 census shows one slave owned by Daniel Lord, who purchased today’s Ashlawn Farm in 1769

The Old Lyme Witness Stones Partnership invites you to learn more about restorative history and the history specific to our region. The following resources represent a selection of pieces chosen by participating partners. Please note, ​that this is not a comprehensive bibliography and does not include the many excellent, recent book-length studies of northern slavery. 


The 1619 Project


"The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

Brent Staples, The Myth of American Innocence


This New York Times article by author and editorial writer Brent Staples summarizes the violent suppression of Black voting rights throughout American history and explains how this tradition of political violence continued in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Staples stresses the importance of understanding the events of the past and not relying on the myth of American innocence.

Fabiola Cineas, What Reconstruction Teaches Us about White Nationalism Today


This interview with Eric Foner, a leading historian of Reconstruction, examines the ongoing clash between white nationalism and interracial democracy. Foner explores parallels between the events of Reconstruction and the January 2021 attack on the U. S. Capitol. He notes the impeachments of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump and also explains the historical significance of the U. S. Senate races in Georgia in 2020.

Brent Staples, The Myth of American Innocence


This New York Times article by author and editorial writer Brent Staples summarizes the violent suppression of Black voting rights throughout American history and explains how this tradition of political violence continued in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Staples stresses the importance of understanding the events of the past and not relying on the myth of American innocence.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries. The Courage to Teach Hard History


This article by Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University, reveals the ways in which standard teaching practices minimize the pervasive influence slavery - both of Indigenous and African peoples - had and has had on American success, policy, and progress. 

Jason Farago, The Myth of North America, in One Painting


In a detailed examination of Benjamin West’s famous painting, The Death of General Wolfe, a New York Times art critic asks the question, “Who gets to tell history and why?” Farago explains how West altered the details of history when he portrayed an “ideal New World” viewed by an unnamed Native American. The painting reveals how art helped create a mythic history, in this case by idealizing the beginning of settler colonialism.


Monuments in Duck River Cemetery mark burial sites of persons formerly enslaved

Restoring History
New England Slavery

Joseph Carvalho III, Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865

In Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts 1650-1865, Carvalho focuses on the Connecticut River town of Springfield. This selection of short chapters from his book explains how Springfield developed from a Puritan settlement with a small number of slaves into the commercial hub of Hampden County. Springfield later became a haven for escaped slaves and anti-slavery activism. Of particular interest is a chapter on "Anti-Slavery Activism" that documents the work of local ministers and citizens in Springfield’s Underground Railroad, as well as their offering of aid to escapees in finding work and setting up schools. The last section describes the service of Springfield Negroes in the Civil War.

Caitlin Galante-Deangelis Hopkins, The Beautiful, Forgotten, and Moving Graves of New England’s Slaves


A photo essay in Atlas Obscura examines the gravestones of Rhode Island's slaves and provides informative commentary to accompany beautiful images of skillfully carved and artistically designed grave markers. The gravestone inscriptions often include carefully chosen words of honor and devotion and offer fascinating detail about the legal and marital status of the interred and about familial relationships and life stories. This moving article offers context for the slave gravestones in Old Lyme’s Duck River Cemetery and highlights an often overlooked source of historic discovery.

A History That Cannot Be Ignored: Examining Slavery in Rhode Island


This article in the Westerly Sun, prompted by the Rhode Island Slave History Medallions Project, examines slavery and slave owners in Westerly, including members of Lyme’s influential Noyes family. The article also looks briefly at the origins of the Rhode Island slave trade, its local economic implications, and the effort to end it as an institution in the state. The author points out the paradox of colonial leaders demanding freedom from England while at the same time justifying slavery in their own communities. There are interesting details about Rhode Island laws on slavery and the Atlantic slave trade.

Becky Little, How Slavery Persisted in New England


How Slavery Persisted in New England, provided by the History Channel, traces the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans in 17th, 18th, and 19th-century New England. The article focuses on the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which boosted its economy with profits from the slave trade and held the largest percentage of enslaved people. Of interest are discussions of the interrelation of southern cotton and northern mills and of African slaves and northeastern rum. A description of the brutality of slavery in the north reminds us that bondage could be as horrific in New England as in the south although in different ways.

Slaves in New England


This two-part online presentation by the Medford Historical Society & Museum explains the origins, acceptance, and economic importance of slavery in New England. It includes recollections by emancipated slave Belinda Royall, who sued her former owner for reparations, and describes three stops along the triangular trade route, among them Antiqua with its loathsome sugar plantations. Of interest are instructive letters written by Medford slave trader Timothy Fitch to his sea captain concerning the handling of his captured Africans.

Forgotten History: How the New England Colonists Embraced the Slave Trade

In this podcast aired on Connecticut Public Radio, host Terry Gross and author Wendy Warren discuss the origins of slavery in the American colonies. They explain chattel slavery, discuss the difficulties of holding indigenous people in slavery, and also review Puritan justifications for enslavement, which was legalized in 1641. Warren is the author of New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America.

Douglas Harper, Slavery in Rhode Island


Slavery in Rhode Island, part of the online Slavery in the North series, provides an overview of slavery in the Rhode Island colony from its beginnings around 1652 to the period of emancipation in the early 19th century. The article covers three primary topics: the implementation of slavery in Rhode Island, the slave trade, and the treatment of enslaved people. Of particular interest is the custom of “warning out,” a process ostensibly intended to remove any poor or undesirable strangers from a community that was used disproportionately against black residents.

Katy June-Friesen, A Northern Family Confronts Its Slaveholding Past


An interview in Smithsonian Magazine traces the history of the DeWolf family in Rhode Island and its involvement in the Triangle Trade. It offers a very personal exploration of a white American coming to terms with her family’s past. That past has roots in Lyme, where Balthazar DeWolf, his son Edward DeWolf, and his grandson Lewis DeWolf were prominent early landowners along today’s Lyme Street.

A. J. Williams-Meyers, Slavery and Resistance in the Hudson Valley


Slavery and Resistance in the Hudson Valley, excerpted from the forward to a book published in 2016, uses runaway slave notices to show the contradiction between the democratic, Christian principles of slave owners in New York’s Hudson Valley and the practice of slavery. Descriptions of individual enslaved people reveal the variety of their lives and treatment. Some escaped to Connecticut, and many of their names are the same as the names on Old Lyme’s Witness Stones.

Christopher N. Matthews, The Black Freedom Struggle in Northern New Jersey, 1613-1860


In this detailed study of early New Jersey, Matthews reveals how enslavement became an essential aspect of colonial life in the North. By surveying the work of scholars and journalists, he brings to life the role of enslaved workers in the Dutch New Netherland colony, today’s New York and New Jersey. The article documents the growth of the slave trade and the limited opportunities available to free Africans under Dutch rule. 

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Marvin Puryear's 2014 Slavery Memorial on the Front Green at Brown University, one of America's prestigious "Ivy League" colleges, in Providence, the capital of, and largest city in, Rhode Island. 
Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


Another Look at the “Negro Governors”


In this online essay, the Shoeleather History Project takes a fresh look at the early Connecticut practice of electing a Negro Governor once a year to represent those enslaved within the colony. History has led us to believe that Connecticut’s enslaved population benefitted from this practice, but Negro Governors did not act to protect those enslaved. Their real job was to mete out punishment, often harsh, for misbehavior by the enslaved. The punishments were directed by slave owners, allowing them to retain a reputation of benevolence. Documentary evidence of these shocking practices shows that punishments inflicted in the North and in the South were often similar in their cruelty. The Negro Governor’s reputation for beneficence has been sanitized and falsely reported. 

Jamie H. Eves & Beverly L. York, The Cotton Connection


The Cotton Connection appeared in conjunction with an exhibition at the Mill Museum of Connecticut, located in the former headquarters of the American Thread Company in Willimantic. The authors trace the rise of the Industrial Revolution in New England, which followed the 1793 invention of the cotton gin, the subsequent planting of hundreds of thousands of acres of cotton in the South, and the addition of millions of slaves to the unpaid workforce. As cotton mills spread throughout New England to accommodate the increased crop, cotton mill towns grew up around them. The article details how the lives of the enslaved and their owners intersected in Willimantic. 

Allison Golomb and Katherine Hermes, The Benefits of Inheritance: The Lord Family

This brief article, available on Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground website, traces members of the Lord family in Hartford and their ownership of enslaved persons from the late 17th century until the late 18th century. They frequently passed ownership from one generation to the next, a practice continued by family members who settled in Lyme, where Richard Lord and his descendants owned extensive acreage along the Connecticut River. 

Jason R. Mancini, New London’s Indian Mariners

This Connecticut Explored article examines the valuable roles played by Native Americans in New London’s maritime industry during the 18th and 19th centuries. Indian mariners were able to leave their reservations and form communities in the New London area, often living closely with free Blacks.

Research Guide to Materials Relating to Slavery in Connecticut at the Connecticut State Library

An annotated list of materials relating to slavery available in the Connecticut State Library includes manuscripts, newspaper articles, and other published pieces. The list, compiled in 2005, does not include more recent scholarship but thoughtfully surveys materials important for anyone interested in researching the history of enslavement in Connecticut. 

Ed Stannard, Slavery in Connecticut, ended only in 1848, had a long history


This article from The Middletown Press offers a brief review of the history of slavery in Connecticut. The early enslavement of Native Americans and the addition of African captives resulted in the state’s boast of 6,400 slaves, the largest number in the New England colonies at the start of the American Revolution. We learn how the enslaved were brought by boat up the Connecticut River to be sold in Middletown and how the export of food and supplies from Connecticut to the South and the Caribbean offered strong support for the slave trade.

David Collins, Ichabod Pease: A Survivor of the Dark Days of New London Slavery


Ichabod Pease, born enslaved on Fishers Island, was eventually freed at age 39. This brief article in The Day describes how Pease settled in New London and started a school for Black children there at the age of 81.

Anne Farrow, New London towards Africa


A ship’s log, written in the mid-18th century during three voyages to Africa by a Connecticut slave trader and preserved in the Connecticut State Library, offers important details about Connecticut’s involvement in the Triangle Trade route system. In this Hartford Courant article, Farrow presents the horrifying details of the captain's business on three different voyages, including the taking of Africans from Bunce Island and trips to the West Indies or back to the colonies where the captives were sold into slavery. Farrow’s examination of a contemporary New London newspaper increases our knowledge of slave culture and how the towns of New London and Middletown were enriched through slave trading. She movingly describes her own visit to Bunce Island and conveys the agony she felt as she learned about “the small slaves,” the children, who were transported under the cruelest of conditions.

Douglas Harper, Slavery in Connecticut


Slavery in Connecticut, part of the online Slavery in the North series, surveys the growth of slavery in the state from its 17th-century inception through the gradual emancipation bills of 1794 and 1797 and the eventual decline in numbers that came in the early 19th century. The article discusses the economic conditions that led to Connecticut having the largest number of slaves in New England by 1774. It also examines the treatment of black people, both enslaved and free, and the efforts made by white lawmakers to control them through legislation, punishment, harassment, and disenfranchisement.

David Menschel, Abolition without Deliverance: The Law of Connecticut Slavery, 1748-1848

A lengthy scholarly article in the Yale Law Journal provides an in-depth discussion of the protracted decline of slavery in Connecticut after the 1784 Gradual Abolition Act. Menschel points out that in many Northern states, including Connecticut, slavery persisted long after the Revolution. He surveys a number of specific court cases interpreting the rights of individual slave owners and enslaved persons and includes extensive footnotes that provide avenues for more scholarship. This is a fascinating article for those with the time and interest to pursue this important topic. 

John Wood Sweet, Venture Smith, from Slavery to Freedom


In Venture Smith, from Slavery to Freedom, a brief article written for, historian John Wood Sweet summarizes the life of Venture Smith, who was brought from Africa and enslaved in Southeastern Connecticut. Through hard work, he was able to purchase his own and his family’s freedom. He lived in East Haddam, where his grave can be seen. The article includes a list of further resources.

Jack Sanders, Farmers, Soldiers, and Slaves: African-Americans in Revolutionary Ridgefield, Connecticut


This lengthy article details the lives of a number of Black people and families, enslaved and free, in Ridgefield. Because free Blacks could own property there, Ridgefield offered more opportunity than other wealthier towns nearby. The story of African Americans from Ridgefield who fought in the American Revolution, a means by which some acquired their freedom, is especially interesting.

Connecticut Slavery
Lyme Slavery

Dr. John Pfeiffer, Post-Contact Populations on the Nehantic Reservation of Lyme, Connecticut


This scholarly article, published in 1996 in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, documents the cultural and historical background of the Nehantic Reservation, established in 1671 in today’s East Lyme. The article provides lists of Native Americans enslaved or indentured in the Lyme region and identifies Native American families living in the area. Pfeiffer includes a lengthy list of references. 

Dr. John Pfeiffer, Slavery in Southeastern Connecticut: A View from Lyme


In Slavery in Southeastern Connecticut: View from Lyme, Pfeiffer points out that the history of slavery in the north is generally sanitized to seem more harmless than the cruel slavery in the south. The enslavement of Indians began with the early Puritans, and the importation of Africans soon became a profitable enterprise. 17th- and 18th-century New England settlers believed slavery was a necessity, and early Puritan leaders, including John Winthrop, argued that slavery was a condition accepted by God. An examination of probate, cemetery, and land records shows slaves being passed from one generation to another in a small Connecticut town, where enslaved persons living in bondage was accepted as a way of life. 


Witness Stones for Nancy Freeman, Temperance, Jane  outside the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center (former site of The Bee & Thistle) shortly after installation on June 1, 2021.

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