Although their rank was at the bottom of Puritan society, the Blacks of colonial Connecticut did have a place in the social order. They were expected to follow the Christian principles by which their masters lived. They attended the same Congregational churches as their masters, usually sitting in their own sections, and worshipped with the families they served.
Slavery was paternalistic in Connecticut, with slaves treated as irresponsible junior family members on some occasions and nearly as equals on others. There were farmers in Eastern Connecticut, particularly in New London and Norwich, who operated large farms with slave labor, but slaves and free Black servants were used primarily as domestic servants and hands on family farms. Many of Connecticut’s early leaders, including John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton and a long list of ministers, owned slaves. Ministers often entrusted the complete management of a farm to their slaves while they tended to their religious duties.
There are cases of slaves who were freed or who purchased their freedom during the colonial period, but they were individual instances of generosity, conscience or industry. The movement to rid Connecticut of slavery began to take hold of the public imagination at a time when Connecticut citizens were chafing under restrictions imposed by England on their own political freedom.
The two stories in this unit are not drawn from legal cases but from a composite of narratives and secondary sources. There is more imagination applied here than in other sections of the activity book, but the essential details are as authentic as I could make them.
In both stories I try to present a concise picture of what it was like to live as a slave in Connecticut around 1750. The two slaves Timon and Sarah have very different lives. Timon is a hired hand on a large farm in New London County. Sarah is a housekeeper for a minister’s family in Hartford. Discussions of these two stories could center around how their lives differed from those of Southern slaves seen on
or described in other reading students may have done.