This eye-opening presentation by historian Jared Hardesty, renowned expert in Massachusetts slavery and unfreedom, opened Partnership of Historic Boston‘s 2023 six-part series, Enslavement & Resistance: New England 1620-1760, with a trenchant exploration of the importance of slavery in the colonization of New England. Click here for the 79-minute video of Hardesty’s October 18th presentation

(Above, left) Jared Ross Hardesty is professor of history at Western Washington University and a scholar of colonial America, the Atlantic world, and the histories of labor and slavery.

This presentation offers an overview of the origins and significance of slavery in early New England. Often overlooked in histories of American and Atlantic slavery, New England was nevertheless an important space for the creation, perpetuation, and refinement of slavery as an institution.  

Although slavery existed everywhere in early America, colonists in New England created a flexible and resilient slave labor system that mixed a variety of other dependent laboring arrangements Рindentured servitude, apprenticeship, poor laws, and convict servitude Рto address labor shortages. In turn, these enslaved people became ingrained in the colony’s social fabric, giving them access to public goods and a place in society beyond their role as laborers.