Slavery & Freedom: North America, 1620-1800

In this module, you will explore the simultaneous rise of slavery and freedom in North America between 1620 and 1800. You will first examine the colonization of Massachusetts by Puritan migrants, and see how their liberty was constrained by gender relations, market dependency, and religious orthodoxy. Viewing the southern colonies in comparative perspective, you will explore the reasons why tobacco and rice planters transitioned from employing white indentured servants to enslaving Africans, and the racial codes that they developed to justify their decisions. You will understand how slave-holding American colonists could espouse discourses of liberty during the American Revolution, and the differing outcomes of the Revolution for Patriots, Loyalists, enslaved people, and Native Americans. You will conclude by studying the rapid expansion of slavery into the Deep South and the settlement of the trans-Appalachian frontier by free settlers after the Revolution. You will thus see how the United States—the “Empire of Liberty”—was forged in both slavery and freedom, creating a divided nation at the beginning of the nineteenth century.