The History of Slavery in New England via Zoom, a Black History Month Program

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Professor Justene Hill Edwards, author of Unfree Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina, will explore the complex history of slavery and how the experiences of enslaved people in New England shaped their fight for freedom into the 19th century.

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The traditional narrative of colonial New England is one of Puritan colonists fleeing religious persecution in England in search of new lands where they could exercise their religious traditions free from tyranny. Ironically, that freedom did not always extend to others. Puritan religious beliefs, and their plans for survival, were not at odds with slavery. In fact, enslaved African and indigenous labor was a visible aspect of life in colonial New England. Though the number of enslaved people in New England was not on par with the number of enslaved Africans in the Southern colonies, the existence of slavery in colonial New England cannot be ignored.

Justene Hill Edwards is an Associate Professor in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia.  A 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow and a 2023 Mellon New Directions Fellow, her forthcoming book, Savings and Trust: The Rise and Betrayal of the Freedman’s Bank (October 2024, W.W. Norton), explores the history of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. She is also the author of Unfree Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina. Her research investigates slavery’s role in the long history of economic inequality in America, focusing on the 18th and 19th centuries.  Always highlighting the lives of enslaved and formerly enslaved people, Hill Edwards studies the relationship between economic and political freedom for people of African descent in the United States.   She received her B.A. from Swarthmore College, M.A. from Florida International University, and Ph.D. from Princeton University.