Ports of Slavery, Ports of Freedom: How Slaves Used Northern Seaports' Maritime Industry to Escape and Create Transatlantic Identities, 1713-1783


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation contends that slaves in northern port cities had unique opportunities to escape enslavement and create identities within the Atlantic world from 1713 to 1783. These opportunities were created and shaped by five interrelated factors: slave agency, including familiarity with the maritime industry and fugitive slaves’ relatively high degree of artisan skills and linguistic ability; environmental factors, such as the anonymity urban spaces provided fugitive slaves and slaves’ access to Transatlantic shipping; imperial conflicts and economic policies; conflicts between whites over slave labor, particularly those between merchants and ship captains; and simple chance. This project argues that opportunities for slaves expanded and contracted in response to changes among these five factors.