Jin and Cato's Lives as Northern Slaves
Grade level: 8 - High School
Massachusetts History and Social Science Frameworks
Gr. 5 Learning Standard
5.12 Explain the causes of the establishment of slavery in North America. Describe the harsh conditions of the Middle Passage and slave life, and the responses of slaves to their condition. Describe the life of free African Americans in the colonies.
Summary and Objective
Jin (Jinny, Jenny) and her son Cato were slaves living in Deerfield, Massachusetts, in the 18th and early 19th centuries. By examining primary and secondary sources, students will understand that Jin's and Cato's lives as slaves in the North in the 18th century were different from the lives of slaves in the South during the same time period.
Needed for the Lesson
Teaching the Lesson
- Read the "Map to African American Sites", especially site #18- the “Reverend Jonathan Ashley House”, to answer the following questions:
- Slavery was never officially abolished in Massachusetts but it slowly died out of practice after it was ruled to be unconstitutional under the Massachusetts 1780 Constitution. When did Jin and Cato die? Would they have died as free people or as slaves?
- Once they gained their freedom, did Jin and Cato leave the Ashley family? Did they leave Deerfield? What is the significance of this information?
- Read “Transcribed Excerpts from the Account Book of Jonathan Ashley” and Student Essay: Slave Life in 18th Century Deerfield, Massachusetts" to answer these questions:
- What did Jin do? Was all of her work done for her master or mistress?
- List the kind of work that Cato did. Was all of Cato's work done for his master? Explain.
- Do you think the nature of Jin’s and Cato’s work was different from that of Deerfield’s white residents?
- Did Deerfield slaves live in separate quarters from their masters as slaves did in the South in the 18th century? Why might this be so?
- Why do you think Rev. Ashley owned Cato?
- What freedoms and privileges did Cato and Jin have?
- Read "Excerpts from the Will of Jonathan Ashley” and the probate inventory information for Sites #10 & #20 on the “Map to African American Sites”. What do you learn?
- Had they lived in the South in the 18th century, how would Jin and Cato's lives have been different? How would their lives have been the same?
Possible answers to the discussion questions