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Slave Trade & It's Mark on New England

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was a global slave trading system that transported over 12 million enslaved African individuals across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century, starting in 1562.

Many regions of the world were involved in the slave trade, including New England. Contrary to popular belief, New England was a constant consumer of slave-produced goods like molasses for rum, which was then traded for more slaves in return. Massachusetts was a prominent colony within New England that participated in not just the transatlantic slave trade, but also the enslavement of many indigenous peoples. 

Roxbury's History With Slavery

In New England, slave-produced goods - like molasses for rum - were also traded for more slaves in return. Boston was not exempt from this participation, as we see in the photo below: 







Roxbury is mentioned in the picture, proving that there was a mark of slaves in Boston, not just goods being imported. 


First Church in Roxbury has been in continuous use since early English settlers built the first meetinghouse on this site in 1632. The church building you see today dates back to 1804. It is the fifth meetinghouse built on this site. First Church in Roxbury is the oldest wooden frame church in Boston, and is an excellent example of the Federal Meetinghouse style. 


In early 2023, Aabid Allibhad, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, completed a report that focused on the history of racism and enslavement at First Church in Roxbury.  Aabid started this report at the request of the UU Urban Ministry at First Church and the Roxbury Historical Society and also solicited feedback from other historians and residents before the report was published. The report, titled, "Race & Slavery at the First Church in Roxbury (The Colonial Period 1631-1775)", tells the story of at least fifty-eight human beings—Black and Indigenous men, women, and children— who were enslaved by First Church’s white parishioners. Aabid's report is part of our commitment to an accurate look at our history to work for a more just future.  And it is not a one-and-done project, but the beginning of our work.



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