A history of more than 150 years of slave owners in New England.
In her first book, journalist Manegold (In Glory’s Shadow: The Citadel, Shannon Faulkner, and a Changing America, 2000) explored the racist traditions of the South Carolina military academy that fought against admitting women. Here, she looks further back to reveal the truth about the Puritans’ “bold experiment,” refuting conventional wisdom that too often “dismissed references to slavery in the North.” In 1630, Massachusetts’ governor John Winthrop purchased 650 acres outside of Boston and created Ten Hills Farm. From the beginning, the experiment was “inexorably, heading for a brand of capitalism that cut out the native population, a people unfamiliar with the rules of English law and the ways of coinage and of profit.” Not only did Winthrop own slaves himself, but “Massachusetts became the first colony in North America to formally endorse the ownership and sale of human property.” Winthrop and his heirs were part of a privileged elite who defended their entitlement and dominated New England politics until after the Revolutionary War. Future Ten Hills owners, such as the Royall family, who are still honored as benefactors of Harvard University, continued the practice until abolition in the 1780s. “Though slaves never made up more than about three percent of the New England population, slave ownership was an integral part of the life,” writes the author, especially its commercial life. In this well-documented account—which also reaches into the Caribbean, where the Winthrops, Royalls and other New England families owned plantations and engaged in trading slaves for sugar and other materials—Manegold effectively re-examines Winthrop’s vision of Boston as a “shining city upon a hill.”
Full of rich historical detail, this is a story that needed to be told.