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While many above the Mason Dixon Line grew
up thinking that slavery was more of a southern
phenomenon it turns out the north had a big role
Only recently are historians bringing the shameful
truth to light. Rhode Island ships were a big part of the
Triangle Trade –
Even here in Providence the controversy divided the
Brown family – of Brown University fame with Moses
Brown a vigorous abolitionist and his brother John a
ship owner that profited from the slave voyages.
Colonial census figures also show clearly the use of
slaves in the state. A young African girl might sell for
$180 with strong men selling for $300 – $500.
Rhode Island made some notable efforts to stem
the tide – in 1782 it declared that children of slaves
were “born free’ and it eventually outlawed the sale
of slaves. The issue of outlawing the ownership of
slaves took much longer. The fact that Mr. Lincoln’s
Providence speech in 1860 and Reverend Martin
Luther Kings speech in 1960 attest to persistence of
both slavery and the prejudice that followed in its
ugly wake.