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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The ugliest chapter of American history, slavery,
started earlier than you might think, in the early days of the New England colonies. Not
only did some colonists import African slaves, they enslaved and exported Native
Americans. My guest, Wendy Warren, scoured original documents from the 1600s,
including ledgers, letters and wills for her new book, "New England Bound: Slavery And
Colonization In Early America." She's an assistant professor in the department of
history at Princeton University.
Wendy Warren, welcome to FRESH AIR. Why did you want to write about slavery in the
New England colonies?
WENDY WARREN: This project started as a fluke encounter with a passage in the
middle of a 17th century travelogue written by a man named John Josselyn, who was an
amateur scientist and who had come to the New England colonies on a sort of factfinding mission for potential investors back home. So he wrote about the animals and
plants he saw in New England for people who were very interested in what North
America looked like. It was a new world to them, although not to Indians. And his role
was to tell them what he saw.
In the middle of this travelogue, he wrote about an encounter he had had one morning
while staying at the house of a man named Samuel Maverick, who owned an island in
Boston's harbor. And Josselyn woke up, he said, to the sound of a woman crying at his
window. When he went to ask her what was wrong, she sort of wailed at him but he
couldn't understand what she was saying. So he went to Samuel Maverick to ask what
had happened. And Samuel Maverick told him that he had wanted to have a, quote,
"breed of negroes," and to that end, he had ordered an enslaved African man that he
owned to, quote, "go to bed to her, willed she, nilled she." So willy-nilly, she wanted him
to or not. And the man had done so. He had raped her. And she had been very upset by
this and came the next morning to John Josselyn's window and complained about it.
So I read this story and I was struck. I was struck by two things, really. According to
what I knew of American slavery, the development of chattel slavery in North America,
it wasn't supposed to be happening this early, that it took the English a while to figure
out how you could use chattel slavery. In particular, the idea that slavery could be
inherited - that the child of an enslaved woman would be enslaved is an idea that you
have to formulate. And American historians had said that that didn't happen till much
later in the century, really with the development of cash crops. But this was happening
in 1638. That was - struck me as odd.

And the second thing that was odd was of course where. It was in Boston. It was in New
England, which never has a cash crop and isn't associated with slavery really at all,
certainly not chattel slavery, and certainly not that early, which is the moment of stern
Puritans in black hats. It didn't seem right to me.
GROSS: So you used the word chattel slavery. What was chattel slavery mean?
WARREN: So chattel slavery is commodified slavery. It's where people have a price.
They can be bought and sold. It's where you have a price on your head.
GROSS: So what surprised me, too, reading your book was not just how early slavery
had started in New England but also that Indians were enslaved.
WARREN: That's right. Indians were enslaved. It's not the primary objective of the
English when they go to North America. What they want is the land. But the - there are
Indians all over North America, of course, and they're not readily usable, I guess, as
labor in the way that the Spanish - so the Spanish in Latin America encounter sedentary
civilizations, large sedentary civilizations, and by sort of allying or co-opting the
authorities who are already in charge of those sedentary civilizations, they are able to
harness the labor to their own ends.
But that doesn't exist in North America. You have much more mobile populations,
smaller, more scattered populations. And they're not useful as a labor force. The
English, moreover, want the land really. They want to settle. They want to establish what
we call a settler colony, where large numbers of English people come over of both sexes
and what they want is to establish sort of satellite little Englands or New Englands. In
that sense, Indians are in the way. Some of them are removed by wars. So a very bloody
process of...
GROSS: And removed, you mean, like, killed?
WARREN: Killed or displaced. Some, it turns out, are actually sold, war captives. About
a thousand at least, maybe, are sold to the West Indies, part of the Atlantic slave trade.
GROSS: Yeah, so it's just a really weird thing happening in New England. They're
importing slaves from the West Indies, slaves who came from Africa, and at the same
time, the New England colonists are exporting Indian slaves. And so, like, one logical
question is since you have this back and forth trade of slaves - I just feel weird even
asking this kind of thing about human beings, but - how come the New England
colonists didn't use their Indian slaves as opposed to exporting them and as opposed to
having to import slaves from the West Indies?
WARREN: Well, when you're dealing with chattel slavery and you're going to keep
slaves under pretty violent conditions, it's safer, I guess, to export them, so African

slaves are exported far from their land of origin. It's harder for them to rebel, run away.
And I think keeping enslaved Indians, similarly, in New England would be very
They have friends and kin around who might rescue them. They know the terrain. It's
easier to sell them at a slight profit to the West Indies. And so in some cases - not in all
cases, but in some cases, that was done.
GROSS: What kind of numbers are we talking?
WARREN: Well, the numbers are tricky but certainly hundreds, perhaps as many as a
thousand are sold out. It's all very hard to quantify.
GROSS: So you write that slavery and colonization went hand in hand. In what respect?
WARREN: So New England is a group of colonies - what we call New England is a group
of colonies on the periphery of the English Empire, so to speak. They're not very
important, seemingly. You know, they don't have a cash crop. They're not very profitable
in and of themselves. But what they can do is carry and provide for the West Indies,
which are really, really important because they're growing sugar, the crop of this time.
And so New England, while it never has a very large population of slaves within the
colonial borders, is deeply connected to the West Indies. So New England we - again, we
think of it as this place of pious people doing some sort of pious labor. And they're
succeeding through, you know, the Puritan work ethic.
To some extent, that's true, I suppose. But it's also very true that they're deeply
connected to this other kind of colonization, this other kind of world going on further
south in the Caribbean.
GROSS: So the sugar, the tobacco that they were relying on, you know, early in the
history of the English colonies in New England, that all came from the West Indies,
which relied on African slaves for labor.
WARREN: Right, so in the West Indies, you have one of the most deadly forms of
slavery ever invented, sugar slavery. But it's also hugely profitable. So you have large
numbers of African slaves being imported into these islands where you're growing this
crop, sugar, which is making immense profits. But it's killing these slaves at huge rates
as well - 50 percent mortality rates and higher in these islands.
Because sugar is so profitable, these islands are given over entirely to this crop, which
means they're not growing their own food. They don't have wood to create houses, and
they don't - they're not bothering to be the carriers of the produce of what they're
producing. New England merchants are happy to step in here.

So by the 1660s, 1670s, for example, in Boston's harbor, one historian has estimated
over half the ships are going directly to or from the West Indies. And that's a lot. That's a
strong connection early on in these Puritan colonies to this deadly enterprise going on
down in the south.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is historian Wendy Warren. We're talking
about her new book "New England Bound: Slavery And Colonization In Early America."
Let's take a short break here, and we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is historian Wendy
Warren who teaches at Princeton. She's the author of the new book "New England
Bound: Slavery And Colonization In Early America." So when we think of the Puritans in
New England, we think of them as having come here for religious freedom.
But there were some Puritans who actually owned enslaved Africans. And it's hard to
reconcile this vision of religious freedom with the practice of slavery. How was that
reconciled? Like, what was their justification that they used to justify this to themselves?
WARREN: Well, I wouldn't say that they came for religious freedom, or I guess I would
limit that a little and say they came for freedom for themselves, to practice as they wish.
But they certainly weren't embracing any sort of melting pot. They were actually quite
exclusive of anyone they felt veered from their doctrine.
GROSS: Not about diversity (laughter).
WARREN: No, they were not about diversity. They were, in fact, leaving because they
wanted more exclusive control over what was appropriate. So if they were exceptionally
exclusive, they were not unusual in embracing slavery. The Bible approved of it, they
felt. And the English approved of it, so did all of Europe. It wasn't anything anyone was
questioning at the time.
And so in that sense, they weren't very exceptional at all. They didn't have any problem
with slavery.
GROSS: And even, like, John Winthrop, who wrote about the Puritan mission in New
England and wrote the famous phrase about we shall be as a city upon a hill, his son was it? - became a slave owner.
WARREN: Right, so several of his sons were involved in West Indian slavery. Some of
them were trading with the West Indies pretty aggressively. Samuel Winthrop, I think,
was his 12th son and owned a plantation in Antigua. I think when he died, he owned 60
slaves. John Winthrop Jr., who stayed in New England mostly, owned slaves.

And Henry Winthrop, who was kind of the family ne'er-do-well, went early to Barbados
and tried to get into cash crops and slavery. At no point did John Winthrop Sr. object to
any of this, and nor is there any reason he should have, according to the temper of the
GROSS: I have to say, when I was in school, and I'm talking about, like, you know, grade
school, high school, during the times when we learned about slavery, we never learned
about slavery in the North. We never learned about the enslavement of Native
Americans. Did you?
WARREN: No, I mean, No. I grew up in California. We hardly learned about New
England at all, to be sure.
GROSS: (Laughter) Oh, we had to sing songs about the Pilgrims growing up in
WARREN: No, it was a little exotic for us, New England. But I just had two kids go
through kindergarten. They both did sort of the pilgrim play for Thanksgiving. And it
wasn't exactly what I write about, I should say. There's a lot more friendly - you know,
the term colonial New England, when I encounter people in airplanes or wherever I
encounter people who find out I'm a historian, and they hear colonial America or
colonial New England, colonial, that adjective, is really just a place marker for them.
It's this synonym with ye old or quaint. You know, it doesn't mean what it actually
means, which is the process of colonization, this bloody process of removal and
replacement and clearing of land and warfare. It's just - it's very sanitized in the mind and of my students. They don't really know what happened.
So I don't think you're alone in not having learned about the role of slavery. And you're
certainly not alone in maybe not of learning about what colonial New England was about
or colonial America.
GROSS: For the colonists who came here, how familiar were they with the institution of
slavery? England was a slave trading country, but how many slaves were actually in
WARREN: I don't know how many slaves were in England. We know that Elizabeth
complained in 1596, I think. She said that there were too many slaves in London - she
meant African slaves - too many already. So they're involved. John Hawkins is a famous
trader early on in the 16th century. His coat of arms actually has a slave on it, a man in
bondage, an African slave.
The English get to colonization later than the Spanish and Portuguese. They're a little England's behind the times, you could say. So they rushed to catch up in the 17th

century. The Spanish have already been in Latin America by that point since, you know,
1492. So the English are over a century behind the Portuguese and Spanish.
In a way, that helps them because many things have been established already. They
don't have to figure everything out from scratch. They've heard what the Spanish have
encountered. So things are less surprising, certainly. But they're behind the times.
GROSS: So the first documents kind of legalizing slavery and setting out the justification
and legalization come from the New England colonies. And the first one is in 1641,
ironically named the Body of Liberties. You're right, it's based on the Magna Carta. And
there's this phrase in it that says it is ordered by this court and the authority thereof that
there shall never be any bond slavery or captivity among us unless it be lawful captives
taken in just wars and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us.
I mean, wow, it's basically saying there will not be any slavery unless we buy the slaves.
(Laughter) I mean, am I interpreting that incorrectly?
WARREN: No, I think that's right. You know, they're Puritan. They're concerned about they have a sort of legalistic mind that you could almost say, are they doing things by the
book, literally? They're very invested in one particular book. And so they write down
these laws in 1641, which are based on English law, based on many precedents.
But there is this line, as you just quoted, that suggests initially if you read it, that there
isn't going to be any slavery. And then there's this unless that's so capacious as to negate
the whole first part of the line. And then in fact, they do have bond slavery. And they
have it very early.
They have it at the time those laws are written, as evidenced by what Samuel Maverick is
doing in Boston's harbor.
GROSS: So then other colonies adopt laws. There's the Connecticut code of laws of 1646.
And that made reference to Indian and African slavery as a legitimate form of
punishment for wrongdoing. Would you explain that?
WARREN: Oh, well, it seems that slavery is a legitimate punishment. It seems that if you
committed certain crimes and you were a certain kind of person, although sometimes
English people are sent away initially in the - early in the century, that perpetual slavery
is a punishment you could face, which is very interesting.
And so early on in the 1640s in Connecticut, they're acknowledging that there's a trade
out of the region, that you could be sold out of the region or kept in the region as a
perpetual slave.

GROSS: So would this mean that if you were a Native American and did anything that
was considered lawbreaking by the colonists' laws, such as resisting colonization, that
you therefore could be legally enslaved?
WARREN: Well, sure. And this is where the idea of just wars comes into play. They say
if you've been captured in a just war, and, of course, the wars of colonization for most
English colonists are just wars because they're bringing Christianity and civilization to
this land. So by nature - by definition, they're just wars.
GROSS: And the people who are writing the laws are the people who are behind all of
this, so of course they're going to be just in those people's mind.
WARREN: Yes, as is always the case throughout history, (laughter) that seems to be the
case here as well. So if you're fighting against the English, you are, by definition, you
know, a combatant in an unjust - you're on the unjust side. And so, yes, you could be
sold for perpetual slave.
GROSS: You write about how terrifying it must have been for Africans who were taken
away on slave ships, who survived The Middle Passage coming to, in this case, the
islands of the Caribbean, and then having to be forced to board another ship to New
England, which is what happened to some of the Africans who were enslaved.
They didn't know where they were going. They didn't know how long the voyage would
be. And surviving The Middle Passage was, you know, almost impossible, I think. So to
endure that and then have to go back on a ship must have been just incomprehensibly
horrible, terrifying.
WARREN: Yeah, I mean, these records - this is a horrible period to write about. And
certainly, it's not hard to get overwhelmed by the trauma that these people must have
endured. In the 17th century, if you ended up in New England, you had almost certainly
been taken from West Africa. So you had undergone a traumatic removal from your own
family in a war or a raid, already sort of a life-altering experience most people would
have a hard time recovering from.
Even undergone The Middle Passage - up to three months in a horrible early modern
ship, tight packed in for maximum efficiency and probably also maximum discomfort,
huge mortality rates onboard, very violent experience - you end up in Barbados. Almost
certainly, most ships in the 17th century went first to the West Indies. So you've seen
sugar slavery - as I said, one of the deadliest institutions known in early modern history.
And then but what is, as you point out, interesting to me is if you ended up in New
England at some point, you almost certainly got back on another ship. While we don't
have any records, I mean, to write this book required a lot of - developing a lot of
empathy with the time period and sort of trying to understand what happened.

But certainly, what happened is you got on another boat and you didn't know where you
were going. So I've always wondered, did you think you were going to repeat The Middle
Passage and go somewhere worse? And how on earth did you get on the boat, if that was
what you thought? Did you have any idea where you were going?
And when you got off the boat in New England, what on earth did you think? And I
know that one thing that must've struck any enslaved African who got off the boat in
Boston or Salem, was just how few other Africans would have been around for the first
time because Barbados was heavily populated - I mean, was heavily majority enslaved
But New England was not.
GROSS: My guest is Wendy Warren, author of the new book "New England Bound:
Slavery And Colonization In Early America." We'll talk more after a break. Also, rock
historian Ed Ward will tell us about an obscure American band that helped kick off
London's pub rock movement. And writer Sarah Hepola will explain how giving up
drinking led her to rethink casual sex.
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with historian Wendy Warren, the
author of a new book about slavery in the New England colonies called "New England
Bound: Slavery And Colonization In Early America." It's based in part on original
documents from the 1600s, including journals, letters, ledgers and wills.
So the first anti-slavery publication was published in 1700. It was called "The Selling Of
Joseph" by Samuel Sewall. He was a wealthy Boston merchant and chief justice of the
Massachusetts Superior Court. What did this publication advocate?
WARREN: So Samuel Sewall's an interesting guy. He was involved in the Salem
witchcraft trials, and he was the only judge to later publicly recant his participation in
those trials. He stood up in front of a congregation and apologized. He said he was
wrong. So he's a man given to self reflection. He's not above humbling himself in public.
And he writes this pamphlet called "The Selling Of Joseph" in which he says, basically,
he's troubled by the numbers of slaves that he sees in Boston and he wonders if this is an
OK thing. And he says, no, it's not, that this is not God's work, that we're bringing these
slaves and then we're not helping them and it's wrong.
And it's a startling pamphlet to read. What's more interesting to me - so people often put
him in sort of - he's the origin of a lineage of Northern anti-slavery sentiment. But
what's more interesting to me is that he's actually, for his time, wrong. A man named

John Saffin responds to him and rebuts him point for point. And according to the
thought of the time, Saffin is right. He says, no, what are you talking about? There's a
hierarchy in the world. God developed this hierarchy. Some people are born to serve,
and this is them and the Bible justifies this.
He says, moreover, it's not wrong to take them from Africa because we're Christianizing
them, you know, what do you mean that that isn't right? Of course we're saving them.
And Sewall's pamphlet falls into oblivion, really. It's not, (laughter), it's not welcomed by
anyone in the region. His own son later advertises for slaves. So even in his own family,
he has little effect.
GROSS: So you read a lot of documents from the period, from the 1600s when you were
doing your book, and I'm interested in hearing about the experience of reading these
documents - wills, ledgers, journals - that talk in very, like, straightforward terms about
slavery, you know, just, like, that's a fact of life, it's what these people do. They own
slaves. They buy slaves. They sell slaves.
Did you get your hands on original documents?
WARREN: Oh, yeah. A lot of the book is original manuscripts, which historians call
primary sources. So it's reading handwriting from the 17th century, the archaic spelling.
In fact my spelling has gone to pot because I know, you know, I read so many
idiosyncratic spellings of words. They're all over New England Archives, these
manuscripts. And, yes, as you said, they they sort of casually mentioned slavery in the
oddest places. You know, I was reading a cobbler account book and turned the page, and
they made six pairs of shoes for - the word they used is [expletive], which means, you
know, African slaves. They're doing - they're making a different sort of shoe, is the
implication for an African slave, probably a lesser quality shoe. And then there's these
tragic stories that appeared throughout the records.
So one problem with my source base is that enslaved people usually only appear in
records when they've run afoul of authorities. In that sense, it's a skewed population that
in that I'm mostly dealing with people who have committed some sort of offense, and
that's probably not how most people live their lives. Most people get along and sort of
live normal lives. I saw a lot of people when they're caught in fornication records,
particularly pregnant people because the evidence is very visible, and those cases could
be very sad and compelling. There was one case...
GROSS: Can I interrupt here and say that fornication, marriage, having children - those
were all outlawed for slaves.
WARREN: Some people did it, but technically it's not approved of. Yes.

GROSS: So it's criminal if you did?

WARREN: Yes. Fornication for everyone - that is, say, sex outside of marriage, is an
infraction that has to be dealt with.
GROSS: But probably not if you're a slave owner raping a slave?
GROSS: That's probably - that's probably acceptable under the law.
WARREN: Yeah, maybe. I don't know of any - there weren't any instances where slave
owners were accused of doing that in the records I looked at, although certainly we
know from other places where slavery happened that that very well may have happened.
There are pregnant slaves where fathers aren't named, and it would be very easy to place
suspicion upon an owner or someone around in a position of authority, but that never
came to light in these records.
But there are very tragic cases. There's a woman who's impregnated. She's Indian, and
she's in a house in Weymouth, Mass., and she's having a horrible pregnancy. And the
woman who owns her, her mistress, you know, brings another colonist to examine her
and they talk about how bad the pregnancy has been. There's discharge, and she's in
pain. And it sounds horrible, as pregnancy could be for early modern women. So they
bring in other women to examine her. There's some concern about the pregnancy. The
baby's eventually stillborn. But what's interesting to me is this woman doesn't give birth
in the house of her owner when she feels labor coming on. She runs away and goes to a
house of an Indian family nearby. And what's interesting to me about that is how her
actions sort of give lie to protestations of benevolence from her owners even though
they've brought in people to take care of her and look at her pregnancy and inspect her,
when labor happened, she leaves them and she goes somewhere else for support.
GROSS: Isn't one of your areas of research now sexuality during slavery, in slave
WARREN: Now it is. Yes, after this book.
GROSS: After this book. And why are you researching that?
WARREN: You know, it's interesting to think of how people fulfill basic needs in
systems that try to prevent that. Right now I'm interested in enslaved women who find
themselves in the Caribbean in long-term relationships with their owners and how they
navigate what is essentially a long-term situation of rape from which they derive some
material benefits. I'm interested in what that experience is like in a situation where

you're never allowed to refuse and yet you're somehow differentiated from your peers
because of this special situation your owner has put you into.
GROSS: So in the work that you're doing now researching sexual relationships in slave
systems, it's basically going to be a lot of rape.
GROSS: And that's going to be - just strikes me it's going to be a very, like, difficult
subject to write about on two levels. One, finding the documentation. And two, I mean,
that's a lot of suffering in addition to the suffering of just being enslaved and not having
freedom, you're also being raped.
WARREN: Yeah, it's not - it wasn't an easy experience, slavery or colonization, to be
colonized. And it's not easy to research, I'll say that. You take a lot of breaks. But I think
it's important. It's rewarding in a way to bring these people, their experience, to life.
GROSS: I found it interesting in your acknowledgements at the end of the book, you
thank Yale Graduate School's parents' support and relief policy, the U.K. statutory
maternity leave and Princeton's family-friendly leave policies. And you write, (reading)
Many people, mostly feminists, fought long and hard to achieve these kinds of policies
and I'm very grateful to have benefited from their victories.
I was really glad that you chose to include that in the acknowledgements. And maybe
you can describe a little bit how that enabled you as a mother to continue doing your
work and to continue to have a career.
WARREN: You know, I had parent leaves, and people don't usually thank inanimate
statutes in their acknowledgments, but I thought in this case - when I left graduate
school, my cohort of friends scattered. Some went to wealthy institutions and some went
to places that didn't have parent leave policies. And I thought it was worth
acknowledging that I had been to places with generous policies and that they did help
me write, I think, a better book and helped me keep my sanity (laughter).
GROSS: So the more that historians like you uncover about early American history and
the American colonies and how slavery dates back that far, do you think that Americans
need to constantly re-evaluate who we are as Americans and how our history was built?
We certainly know a lot about slavery in the South. We're learning more about slavery in
the North. But it sounds like understanding about slavery in the colonies, that that's still
pretty new territory.
WARREN: I mean, I think speaking as and for colonialists, it would be great if we knew
more about sort of the first two centuries of European colonization of North America.
And it would be great if we understood that it wasn't a pleasant process, that it was time

of warfare and brutality and a lot of fear and trauma. And it would be great if we
understood that slavery was there right from the beginning, that it was embedded in the
process of colonization, that in some cases it drove the process of colonization. I think
that would be fantastic. What would it do for us? You know, as a country, I don't know,
maybe offer us a little bit of humility about the origins. The Puritan story tends to be
held up as an exemplar of a sort of noble endeavor. And while I think the Puritans had
some sort of really idealistic goals, they lived in a pretty muddy world, and it's hard to
keep your hands clean in that kind of world. And when it came to slavery, their hands
weren't clean. Nobody's hands were clean.
GROSS: Wendy Warren, thank you so much for filling in on a chapter of very early
American history that a lot of people don't know much about. Thank you for joining us.
WARREN: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
GROSS: Wendy Warren is the author of the new book, "New England Bound: Slavery
And Colonization In Early America."
After a break, rock historian Ed Ward will tell us about an American band that helped
start London's pub rock scene in the '70s. This is FRESH AIR.
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