Freedom & Slavery, 1774

Freedom, Slavery, and the Complexities of 1774


Sheffield Resolves in the newspaper Massachusetts Spy

In response to the Boston Tea Party (1773), Parliament drafted the the Coercive Acts in 1774, and residents throughout the thirteen colonies protested these acts in various ways. For instance, in the western town of Sheffield, Massachusetts, Colonel Ashley hosted citizens at his house, and that group composed the Sheffield Resolves. Interestingly, one of his slaves, Elizabeth Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, was inspired by these conversations of protest and later sued successfully for her own freedom, Brom and Bett v. Ashley (1781). What happened in your Connecticut town during the pivotal year of 1774? What part of the population supported the growing patriot cause in Boston? What portion of citizens accepted the dictates of the British Parliament and refused to petition King George III? Who was neutral? The year 1774 also marked the highest recorded number of Africans in Connecticut, 6,464. What effect did these turbulent times have on enslaved Africans? Beginning with an excellent primary source document, such as the Colony of Connecticut Census, find the number of Africans who lived in your town and start investigating.


Elizabeth Freeman aka Mum Bett

Bill Sullivan’s American Studies class, which is a winter/spring trimesters project-based learning elective to seniors, will share everything they learn about the year 1774 in Suffield on this blog and invite other Connecticut students to do the same about their town! Let’s together create Connecticut history on this great collaborative platform (blog) and “do original” history story about the the complex topics of freedom and slavery during this important year in American history. And like all great history projects, we should focus our general question about slavery, freedom, and the complexities onto one primary source that we will serve our local and regional aims simultaneously, The Colony of Connecticut Census of 1774.




Click on the Colony of Connecticut Census from 1774, pp. 484-492. Look up your town and begin investigating.  There will be more information about project-based learning as well as important primary source investigating tips.

#PBL Mantra: Share what you learn and show how you learned it.

The Suffield Academy American Studies class will present their findings at the April meeting of the Suffield Historical Society. Other schools should consider what is the best format in their respective communities to share their important community information. Interestingly, once students get deeply involved into “doing” this important history, they will also understand how this is an important type of “service” learning.

Digital platforms for #CAISCT #PBL Colleagues. Along with adding important content to our CAIS PBL blog, students can also add to this important information to these sites:

#PBL Field Trip and Resources

  • Ashley House & Sheffield Historical Society: this exhibit might be a good place for #CAISCT teachers to meet for summer inspiration; likewise, visiting the exhibit and viewing the Ashley House would be equally inspiring for #PBL investigators (students). Here’s a link to a story from the Albany Public Radio station, WAMC, that highlights the impact of the Sheffield Resolves; we should also find out if the exhibit will still be on display after early September dates and accessible for a school group: