Calendar photo caption: An exhibit on the Transatlantic Slave Trade in EJI's Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, features more than 200 sculptures by Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. (Bryan G. Stevenson)
Slavery in New England began in the 1630s, when European colonizers enslaved more than 1,500 Pequot men, women, and children in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
When famine and disease ravaged Indigenous populations, Europeans kidnaped people from Africa and trafficked them to the colonies, where they were subjected to extreme violence and brutality. in 1641, Massachusetts became the first Northern colony to formally legalize slavery.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade soon became a massive international enterprise, and colonies in New England played a critical role. Between 1678 and 1807, at least 314 trafficking voyages landed in New England ports. Over 40,000 kidnapped Africans were trafficked into slavery in the Americas during these voyages, including at least 5,000 into New England. Thousands of kidnaped Africans - nearly 15% of all those trafficked - died during the Middle Passage, the harrowing journey from Africa to the Americas.
Norther colonies founded on ideals of equality and freedom used slavery to finance their growing economies. Shipbuilding, manufacturing, insurance, banking, and commerce in the North relied heavily on the enslavement and exploitation of Black people.
White New Englanders exploited slavery in everyday life as well. By 1730, nearly half of all New York City residents personally enslaved Black people - a higher percentage than any colonial city except Charleston, South Carolina. By 1754, enslaved people made up 10% of the population in Boston, and by the start of the Revolutionary War, one in four households in Connecticut enslaved at least one Black person.