Author Archives: katherinekalill

Preaching the Aboliton of Slavery

I have continued my research into the impact of religion on slavery and freedom in Connecticut in 1774. The connection between the two topics is particularly interesting to me because of the potential impact religion could have had on the institution of slavery. Some religious leaders did indeed speak out about the institution and were active in trying to abolish it, while others did not. From what I understand about Reverend Levi Hart of Preston, Connecticut, he was one who spoke out against slavery, he advocated for better living situations and lives for slaves. While Timothy Dwight IV, the president of Yale, initially was said to not agree with slavery but eventually bought a slave named Naomi. Although he did claim it was his intention to “buy her freedom” we are unsure as to if this ever happened.


Jonathan Edwards Sermon

A new name I have come across is theologian Jonathan Edwards of Connecticut who was born in 1745. He supposedly recycled Anthony Bezenet’s golden rule. Bezenet was a Quaker delegate from Philadelphia also born in 1745 and his golden rule was “whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them”. Bezenet taught African American school children at a school he set up called the African Free School in Philidelphia. He advocated for full equality for black and white people and acknowledged as a white male that he was not interested in having superiority. He came up with many philosophical arguments countering the institution. Jonathan Edwards also looked to the Revolutionary War natural rights arguments to justify his thoughts on why slavery should be abolished. Edwards even gave sermons preaching his thoughts, one titled “The Injustice and Impolicy of the Slave-Trade and the Slavery Of Africans”, in 1791 to an anti-slavery group in New Haven Connecticut. I am currently searching for more information on this sermon as well as this group and am starting by looking for a copy or a typed version of the sermon.


Log book of slaves Africa to New London

Through my current research on Jonathan Edwards, I was able to find awesome recourses that has a list of prints created in Connecticut in the 1700’s regarding slavery that I am hoping to continue to look into. For example, I found the log book of slave trades from New London to Africa as well as a story of a specific slave we have yet to search named James Mars. I am excited to further my knowledge on all of these issues, and I think I have come across some excellent finds through the UMASS Amherst library and the library of Congress. The religious impact on slavery was seemingly impressive. It turns out that quite a few religious leaders did not agree with the institution and through the search of one influential, comes the names of many others in our area.

Reverends For Or Against Slavery?

With my research on religion in Suffield in 1774 and how faith helped to abolish slavery, I was able to access a vast list of names and information on people and their plans against slavery. My first connection was made when I learned about Reverend Levi Hart, whom I wrote about in my last post. He was supposedly responsible for coming up with a “blueprint” for the abolition of slavery that was published and discussed in the Hartford Courant in 2002. I later learned that his “blueprint” is titled “Liberty Described and Recommended” and that it was originally a letter addressed to Samuel Hopkins of Rhode Island and then became a sermon. In researching both of these men, along with the terms slavery, 1774, Connecticut, abolition and religion, I was able to come across another, what seemed to be, prominent figure in the act of abolishing slavery in the 1770’s.


Famous photo of Timothy Dwight IV

Timothy Dwight IV, who was the president of Yale in from 1785- 1817, became important in my research because it was said that in 1774 he was a critical figure in creating the Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom, although this group is said to have died out by 1800, supposedly their convictions continued. It turns out that Timothy Dwight IV was a minister who had entered Yale as a student at age 13,he was born in 1752 and died in 1817. Dwight was popularly known for writing epic poems like The Conquest of Canaan. His popularity grew during the time of the American Revolution, however, when he wrote the song Ode to Columbia while he was a chaplain in the army. I am continuing to research his role in the Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom but am struggling because some of the sites that I have come across claim that Dwight was a slave owner himself. Although he did not necessarily agree with it, he still partook in the act. Dwight was a rector of the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven before becoming president of Yale. He was licensed to preach in 1777 and married Mary Woolsey in 1777. Dwight was a very accomplished man in Connecticut as the nominal head of the states Congregational Church as well as the head of Connecticut’s Federalist Party. Despite his apparent efforts to abolish slavery in 1788, he apparently purchased a slave woman named Naomi that same year. Aside from Dwight I began to learn about his colleagues Jon Trumbull and David Humphreys who all with Dwight created the Hartford Wits, which seemed to be a media source for poetry.


With my continued findings about Dwight and his colleagues, I plan to find more information about his role in Connecticut in 1774 and hopefully gain a better understanding of his intentions in terms of slavery. Although this information is not fully developed, I have found numerous sources and through those sources have found more sources thus I still have a lot of discovering to do about these influential men, their stances and a new slave name that has been addressed, Naomi. Hopefully in my next post I will be able to share more specific information about how these people and their faithfulness potentially helped to abolish slavery in Connecticut or perhaps how they served as aids to the institution.;_ylt=A0LEV73csZBYIzQAgfcPxQt.?p=timothy+dwight+iv&fr=yhs-Lkry-SF01&fr2=piv-web&hspart=Lkry&hsimp=yhs-SF01&type=RVMC_80801239#id=2&

Do Religious Morals Help Challenge Slavery or Make The Institution More Tolerable?

Connecticut, as well as the rest of the new world, heavily followed religion, specifically the Christian faith and its principles. Religion in Connecticut in the 1700’s was also in some ways was a social thing. As a matter of fact, in the article I found, it put religion under the titled paragraph “Social Conditions”. In that paragraph it explained that Connecticut was ranked at the bottom of the Puritan society. It also states that African Americans in Connecticut had some place in social order, and they followed Christian principles and attended the same churches as their owners or masters. Suffield was not one of the most religiously affluent towns in the new world. Because Suffield quickly became a wealthy, business oriented town, religion was not at the forefront of the lives of Suffield residents in comparison to the work residents did for benefits of money. After speaking with the tour guide at the King home this became very clear to me and helped me to understand why Suffield did not participate in early Puritanical beliefs. One of the biggest questions I ask in regards to religion and slavery is how early white citizens could justify their enslavement of blacks while they were fighting for their freedom because of a growing dissatisfaction with the British government and if religion ever helped to cause some sort of reconciliation to slavery. It turns out however, religion did not completely help with the sad use of slavery but it did in some ways bring slaves and their masters together because slaves did often attend church alongside their masters. With that being said, some religious leaders did speak out about slavery like Reverend Levi Hart of Connecticut in the year 1775. Hart wrote a 23-page letter to Samuel Hopkins who resided in Rhode Island that is sometimes called the “blueprint” to the abolition of slavery in the north. This letter questions the morality of slavery and also includes a possible payment formula for slavery. Hart mentions in his note in the Hartford Courant that slaves stealing was starting to become more and more of an issue and that he thinks that it is a result of the restrains put on the slaves by not only their masters, but the government as well. To better explain his concept here is a quote from the Hartford Current article

“As to their growing more vicious and disorderly and, in particular, more given to stealing by being made free, the prospect is, I think, quite the contrary, for then they will be members of the community and have a common interest with others in support of good order and preservation of private property, whereas now they have no property to be exposed and so no interest in good order.”

Because of the words of people like Hart, I know that slavery was indeed controversial although to some people more than others. As the population of African American people in Connecticut continued to grow, servitude became lifelong slavery. Because of the growth of slavery, religious leaders were eventually called upon to justify it so as a result unfortunately, many Puritan leaders turned to the parts within the bible that comprised slavery.

Another question I had asked myself was if there were differences in the treatment of black, mixed and Native American slaves. So far what I have found states that mixed people, mostly products of slave masters and their female black slaves would actually not be recognized by their fathers as white at all. In fact, they would be left for their mother to raise them and would be born into slavery and take the role of a slave in that particular home often, as their mothers did. Some of these children were so light skinned that to a common eye one would not be able to classify their skin as black. It also turns out that all three groups of people had to be off streets by 9 o’clock at night and stay in the towns they lived in because black people were not trusted. Perhaps for reasons like they would steal from their masters, which as Reverend Hart recognized was probably the outcome of their poor life conditions.