They baked New England's Thanksgiving pies, preached their faith to crowds of worshippers, spied for the patriots during the Revolution, wrote that human bondage as a sin, and demanded reparations for slavery. Black women in colonial and revolutionary New England sought t only legal emancipation from slavery but defined freedom more broadly to include spiritual, familial, and ecomic dimensions. Hidden behind the banner of achieving freedom was the assumption that freedom meant affirming black manhood The struggle for freedom in New England was different for women than for women. Black men in colonial and revolutionary New England were struggling for freedom from slavery and for the right to patriarchal control of their own families. Women had more complicated desires, seeking protection and support in a male headed household while also wanting personal liberty. Eventually women who were former slaves began to fight for dignity and respect for womanhood and access to schooling for black children.
Catherine Adams is Assistant Professor of History at SUNY Geneseo. Elizabeth H. Pleck is Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.