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The slaveholder Cotton Mather (1680–1723), a leading Puritan intellectual in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was among the first to argue that slaves be converted to Christianity. Using his own home as a Sunday school and house of worship, Mather passionately rebutted common arguments that blacks were incapable of reasoning, or that they had no souls. He also advocated fairer treatment of slaves, declaring that it was God’s will that the institution be humane. However, Mather never went so far as to condemn slavery. In fact, he assured fellow slaveholders that converting the workforce would not lead to emancipation, and would instead make the slaves more productive. In addition, his Rules for the Society of Negroes (1693)—regulations intended for his congregation of slaves—lists disobedience and attempted escape among the most egregious sins against God and the community. Later, Mather would author The Negro Christianized 1706 which lays out the prescribed ...

Article

Donovan S. Weight

slave owner, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a freed slave and a white man (their names are unknown). Hinard never experienced slavery herself, and her life as a slave-owning black female was far removed from the common experience of most blacks in North America. This anomaly can be explained in part by the political and social turbulence of early New Orleans. By the time Hinard was forty-two, she had lived under French, Spanish, and American rule. In 1791 at the age of fourteen, Hinard was placéed (committed) to the white Spaniard Don Nicolás Vidal, the auditor de guerra the Spanish colonial governor In this lofty position Vidal provided military and legal counsel for both Louisiana and West Florida Both the Spanish and the French legislated against racial intermarriage as a way of maintaining pure white blood but this legislation did not stop white men from ...

Article

Nick Nesbitt

Victor Hugues was the son of a baker from Marseilles, France. At the age of twelve, he joined his uncle in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) at the height of that island's colonial prosperity. After sailing the Caribbean as a corsair in search of English ships, in 1784 Hugues settled in Port-au-Prince, where he opened a bakery. In 1788, when the French King Louis XVI convened the Estates General in Versailles in an attempt to defuse rising antimonarchical sentiment, Hugues was elected and returned to France to represent the petit blancs, or white shop owners and traders. Hugues also became embroiled in the conflict between petits blancs and a mulatto class striving for legal recognition: in February 1791 Port-au-Prince was burned by armed members of the mulatto class, and Hugues, by his own estimation, lost seven-eighths of his worldly goods.

When the French monarchy was overthrown in ...

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Alexander J. Chenault

former slave, slave owner, and pioneer for the legal rights of free blacks, was born a slave in 1802, probably in Virginia, although the precise place of his birth is unknown. Court records show that he was once owned by William Chenault Jr., a prominent lawyer and a member of the lower house of the Kentucky legislature. Prior to emancipation Jones resided on the Chenault family's farm, near Richmond, Kentucky, which was purchased in 1787 from the brother of Kentucky pioneer and settler Daniel Boone. Four years before Chenault died he emancipated Jones (31 May 1830). At the time Jones was married, although not legally, to Sally Ann, a slave woman, with whom he had four children. Although the date of Levi and Sally Ann's union is unknown, marriage between free blacks would not even become legal until 1825 Moreover ...

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Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader was born in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave who became a free woman and a successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Louis was born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres Louis Metoyer s upbringing was unusual for its day His parents shared a household in a scarcely disguised fashion and unlike most other mixed race families in the Louisianan upper classes there was no white family to compete for the financial and emotional affection of the father Pierre Metoyer reunited his children with Marie Thérèse under one ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Before the American Revolution, slave owners in what became the United States rarely discussed the rationale for their system of bondage. They accepted slavery as one of the many social statuses that existed within the British Empire. Slavery was, of course, alien to English culture, so much so that its development required some justification. But that justification was easily supplied by the dual claims that slavery was an economic necessity—the colonies needed cheap labor—and that enslavement enabled Africans to become Christians, which was in itself a blessing for them. These justifications proved sufficient throughout the colonial period as new African slaves brought prosperity to the colonies and Christian ministers happily baptized them to save their immortal souls. By the mid-1700s slavery was entrenched, and American colonists seemed to give little thought to the system. With a few notable exceptions, such as the Germantown Quakers protest against slavery in 1688 ...

Primary Source

The efforts of Cotton Mather 1680 1723 to convert his slaves to Christianity demonstrates the strained attempts by the Massachusetts Puritan community to justify the practice of forced servitude in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries The Harvard educated Mather lived during a turbulent time for the Massachusetts Bay Colony which included the Salem witchcraft hysteria In this tumultuous context Mather challenged the prevailing assumption that blacks had neither souls nor a capacity to reason and called for the humane treatment of servants Despite these relatively progressive ideas Mather also claimed like many Christians at the time that slavery was compatible with his religion as the Bible recognized the institution as legitimate He also went to great lengths to convince others that baptizing the slaves would not one day lead to their emancipation but merely to a more just version of the practice These seemingly competing priorities are on ...

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Allan D. Austin

Islamic slave and autobiographer, was African born and also known as Omar, Uncle Moro, and Moreau. The son of moderately wealthy parents in Futa Toro (northeastern Senegal), whom he honored in several of his American writings, he may have been related, at some remove, to some of the other Fulbe or Fulani caught up in the Atlantic slave trade, such as Job Ben Solomon, Ibrahima Abd al-Rahman, Bilali, Salih Bilali, and Charno (a literate Fula enslaved in South Carolina). All were steadfast adherents to Islam. According to Said's own statements, he was educated for some twenty years by Fulani instructors, became a teacher himself, and while in Futa Toro closely followed the tenets of his religion. He never mentioned having a wife or children.

Said did write that an unidentified African army he belonged to was defeated by an infidel non Muslim enemy ...

Article

Allan D. Austin

Muslim plantation manager on St. Simons Island, Georgia, was called Tom by his master. His history, including details from his earlier life in Africa, was published by America's first student of African—including Arabic—languages, the Georgia linguist William Brown Hodgson. Hodgson prevailed upon Salih Bilali's second master, the prominent James H. Couper, to write him a personal letter about Salih Bilali in 1838. Six years later, disappointed that the master would not grant him a personal interview with Salih Bilali, Hodgson published the letter under the title Notes on Northern Africa, The Sahara and Soudan (1844).

In the letter Couper summarized what Salih Bilali had told him about his African life and homeland of Massina later Mali then contested by the powerful Bambaras a branch of Manding people and his immigrant Fulbe there called Fulani Massina was agriculturally valuable as it lay in the productive Niger ...