Griot: Reggie Jackson

Photo Editor: Fran Kaplan

INSURANCE POLICY FOR THE SLAVE SHIP 'LILY' ON THE FIRST LEG OF THE ATLANTIC TRIANGLE, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND, 1795

INSURANCE POLICY FOR THE SLAVE SHIP ‘LILY’ ON THE FIRST LEG OF THE ATLANTIC TRIANGLE, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND, 1795

Most Americans learn that slavery was a southern institution, but in fact, many enslaved Africans were held and worked in the North. Many northern industries and businesses–shipbuilding, ports, banks, insurance companies, textile mills–were dependent on slave labor in both the North and South. Northern consumers were dependent on the products of this slave labor for food, clothing, and amenities like ivory piano keys.

In this exhibit, you will learn about the significant complicity of the northern states in the slave trade, slave labor, and slave-made products in the history of the United States.

For a brief introduction, you can watch the trailer for Traces of the Trade: A Story of the Deep North. The movie traces the journey by members of DeWolf family to explore the origins of their family’s wealth. The DeWolf family owned the largest slave trading business in the country, headquartered in Rhode Island. The full documentary can be obtained here.

Here you can hear a full public lecture by the authors of the book Complicity: How The North Promoted, Prolonged, And Profited From Slavery.