The most pressing need in the New World was not freedom, nor tools from England nor corn grown
from seed. It was labor. To build this colony required hands to do work, and there were not enough
white hands to do it all.
Connecticut was a colony of Great Britain, the greatest slave-trading
empire on Earth. England had been buying
black people from Africa and trading
them for money and goods in the rapidly
expanding New World, and some colonists,
like the New London slave trader Samuel
Gould, dabbled in the trade as well.
Connecticut merchants became
leaders in trade with the Caribbean,
built ships for trading, carried slaves
from Africa to the Caribbean and bought
slaves from English ships too, in
numbers that surprise us today.
With the exception of a few plantation-style farms in the eastern part of the state, colonial
Connecticut practiced a kind of "personal" slavery: Many people owned just a single black man or woman,
or a married couple, or a small family. Prudence Punderson's embroidery provides a rare glimpse of an
African American "servant" as an integral member of the domestic scene. Marginalized yet ubiquitous,
Connecticut's slaves worked on farms and in businesses, on ships and in households.
The idea that there were slaves in Connecticut brings us quickly to the questions of what kinds of
work they did, how many of them were there, and what their lives were like. How much do we know about
these people who were so important to our success as a colony and who were, as a group, so often
Actually, we know quite a bit... next >>