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Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860


Following the abolition of slavery in New England, white citizens seemed to forget that it had ever existed there. Drawing on a wide array of primary sources―from slaveowners' diaries to children's daybooks to racist broadsides―Joanne Pope Melish reveals not only how northern society changed but how its perceptions changed as well. Placing race at the center of New England history, Melish contends that slavery was important not only as a labor system but also as an institutionalized set of relations. The collective amnesia about local slavery's existence became a significant component of New England regional identity.


By Joanne Pope Melish. Published by Cornell University Press, 2000. 320 pages, softcover.