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Dark WorkThe Business of Slavery in Rhode Island$
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Christy Clark-Pujara

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479870424

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479870424.001.0001

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Emancipation in Black and White

Emancipation in Black and White

Chapter:
(p.61) 3 Emancipation in Black and White
Source:
Dark Work
Author(s):

Christy Clark-Pujara

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479870424.003.0004

This chapter details how revolutionary rhetoric, the conditions of war (the American Revolution), and the actions of enslaved people ultimately led to the destruction of northern slavery. In Rhode Island, the breakdown of slavery began with Quaker manumissions in 1773, followed by the enlistment of enslaved men in the Revolutionary War in 1778, the passing of the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in 1784, which ended hereditary slavery, and finally the 1787 slave trade ban, which forbade residents from participating in the Atlantic slave trade. Slaveholding as it existed in the colonial era came to an end in Rhode Island between 1773 and 1787, though the General Assembly would not abolish slavery until 1842. Two parallel and sometimes overlapping histories reveal how and why slaveholding was dismantled in a place that had been and continued to be so wedded to the business of slavery. Enslaved people initiated the process through many modes of resistance (running away, volunteering for military service, and bargaining with their masters) and were responsible for the actual collapse of slaveholding, while black and white abolitionists pushed for a legal end to slaveholding. Nevertheless, the business of slavery remained alive and well in Rhode Island even though the numbers of slaveholders and enslaved people dwindled.

Keywords:   slavery, emancipation, manumission, abolition, Quakers, American Revolution, Revolutionary War, Rhode Island first

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