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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > African Americans 1680-1720 > Working
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

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(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Working : "Servant for Life"

Slavery existed throughout the colonies before the American Revolution. Few if any colonists challenged the prevailing belief system regarding indentured servitude and slavery. Economic, social and geographic conditions fostered a distinctly New England pattern of slavery.

While few masters in New England held large numbers of slaves, the practice of owning another human being was not limited to the very wealthy. Many ministers, other professional men and prosperous farmers had one or more slaves. Slaves in New England were considered part of the household for which they labored. They often slept in the same building with the family, shared work spaces and might labor alongside family members. These living conditions in no way meant that slaves were perceived as equals. While Daniel Arms of Deerfield, for example, spent a January day in 1762 working alongside his slave Titus, members of the Church in Deerfield made Titus? subordinate status clear when they publically chastised him in 1767 for "di[s]obedience to his master."
These work and living patterns encouraged New Englanders purchasing slaves to prefer children to teenagers or adults. John Watts of New York noted that for the northern markets, slaves sold best when they were "young, the younger the better if not quite children. Males are best." Prospective owners reasoned that children were more likely to adjust quickly to life in a new household. They felt that children would be more likely to form loyalties and attachments to the family they served. Masters also believed that African children would learn English more quickly than could adults. On September 25, 1750, a boy called Prince became the property of Israel Williams of Hatfield, Massachusetts. This bill of sale records the transaction that made this nine-year-old child Williams' "Servant for life."

 

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Bill of sale for slave named Prince

creator   Ephraim Williams, Jr. (1715-1755)
date   Sep 25, 1750
location   Hatfield, Massachusetts
width   8.0"
height   5.5"
process/materials   manuscript, paper, ink
item type   Legal Documents/Invoice
accession #   #L00.074


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See Also...

Advertisement in "The Boston Weekly Post-Boy" newspaper

Bill of sale for slave named Kate

Complaint against slave Caesar for stealing

"Negro Slavery in Massachusetts"

Pages from Rev. Jonathan Ashley's account book

Pages from Elijah Williams (Old Soldier's) account book, Vol. 2

Bill of sale for slave named Prince


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