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AFAM 2600: Race, Science and Technology (Angel Nieves)

Colonial and Revolutionary Boston

Colonial Black Communities

Black Lives

Phyllis Wheatley engraving

Detail from frontispiece of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, Written by Phillis Wheatley, First published in London on September 1, 1773. Courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society.

Slavery in colonial Boston

Not only were slaves bought and owned in New England itself, New England merchants were linchpins in the triangle trade.  The triangle trade refers to the production of sugar and molasses on slave plantations in the West Indies, which was exported to New England for the manufacture of rum. Rum was exported to Africa where slaves were purchased to bring to the West Indies to produce sugar and molasses for New England ports, completing the triangle.

Explore advertisements for slaves like this one, from the Boston Gazette, 1720, in Early American Newspapers.
Slave Advertisement from the Boston Gazette


The Boston Massacre, a skirmish between British troops and civilians in downtown Boston, which resulted in the death of 5 civilians, is marked at the Orange Line's State Street Station. 

Boston Massacre Site at State Street Station

Crispus Atticus, a free man of African and Native American descent was killed and later became an icon of the abolitionist movement.  (more at the  Boston Public Library Website).

During the revolution, both the British and the American revolutionaries attempted to recruit Black people to their side.  The British promised slaves their freedom in exchange for military service, and therefore many were evacuated to Canada, the British Isles, the Caribbean, and eventually some to Sierra Leone after the war.

The rhetoric of the revolution and its democratic principles fed directly into the establishment of an abolition movement after the war.

Further Reading