James Mars was born in Canaan, Connecticut. His narrative is entirely confined to his experiences in the North. His comments shed important light on the institution of slavery as it existed beyond the well-known conditions blacks experienced on southern plantations. Slave narrators like Austin Steward noted in their narratives the hardships imposed upon northern blacks. Their implication is that racism and discrimination varied only in kind and expression above the Mason-Dixon Line. As James Mars’s account suggests, slavery in the North was a system characterized by a diversity of servitude. The southern economy’s emphasis on labor-intensive crops like cotton, rice, indigo, and tobacco required large amounts of unskilled labor. Enslaved blacks in the North, however, often occupied jobs that were remarkably skilled and varied. In short, blacks participated in a much broader area of economic society than their southern counterparts.
The North maintained its slave system for approximately two hundred years. Africans were brought to Boston in the 1630s. This is contemporaneous with the first large-scale arrival of Africans in Virginia. 1 Slavery became such an important component to the New England economy that the slave population in Boston actually increased twice as quickly as the white population in the city between 1710 and 1742. 2 Approximately three percent of the Connecticut population was enslaved by 1750.
All of the original thirteen colonies allowed slavery at the time of the Revolution. Slaves arrived in Connecticut as early as 1639 and were primarily introduced in agricultural and commercial areas like Hartford, New London, and Fairfield. Slaves were also used extensively at the docks. In Connecticut,