Way Back When... 1797
In August of 1797 Connecticut modified the Gradual Emancipation act so that any “Negro or Mulatto Child” born in Connecticut after Aug. 1, 1797 will be freed on his or her 21st birthday. The original act passed in 1784 in Connecticut had the age of freedom set at 25.
In 1788 state legislation outlaws the slave trade in Connecticut, prohibiting the import of Africans and the export of African Americans for sale, and requires every slave owner to register the births of every child born into slavery in their household with their town clerks.
In 1790 the African American population in Connecticut numbers 2,759 enslaved and 2,801 free.
Connecticut’s first abolitionist society, the Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom and the Relief of Persons Unlawfully Held in Bondage, was formed in 1790. Waterbury’s slave-owning Rev. Mark Leavenworth was a founding member.
In the Census of 1800, records show 951 African Americans enslaved in Connecticut.
The year Connecticut modified the Gradual Emancipation act
There was not much enforcement once The Gradual Abolition Act was put into effect, which resulted in the slaves remaining subjects to their master’s will. In some cases, the masters refused to free slaves, who continued to be cared for as property. In other cases, the masters freed slaves, who floundered in poverty, disease, and near starvation because they had no experience in making their own way and caring for themselves.
Connecticut was among the first states to legalize slavery through the Articles of the Confederation in the early 1600’s and Connecticut was the first state to support abolition through The Gradual Emancipation Act. However, because of the gradual take it was one of the last northern states to fully abolish slavery.
Slavery wasn’t fully outlawed in Connecticut until 1848.