Slavery in New England was clustered along the seacoast and major cities and a few agricultural areas in southern Rhode Island and Connecticut. This coincides with a concentration of the region's merchant elite and political and cultural leaders, among whom slave owners were disproportionately represented. Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts were the New England colonies with the largest slave populations.
Journals and diaries clearly demonstrate the central role slaves played in the households and communities of their masters. Owners and slaves frequently lived in close quarters, often in the same house, with the slaves inhabiting areas in their master's attics or cellars. This situation made for complex domestic relationships. In the slave quarters, slaves could build a separate identity, family and culture outside the master's direct control. Yet, regardless of how deeply imbedded the enslaved were within the family and household of their master, as slaves, they could never fully assert their individual autonomy. Slave owners and the enslaved shared intimate spaces, but remained strangers.
Image: Connecticut and Parts Adjacent, 1780. Courtesy The Connecticut Historical Society Museum, Hartford, Connecticut.