Slavery existed in the United States even before the United States existed as a nation, but slavery had not always divided northern and southern states from each other. How the United States transformed from a slaveholding to a non-slaveholding nation stands as one of the most dramatic episodes in American history. The transformation was long and painstaking in many ways but abrupt and revolutionary in others. Massachusetts played important, though complicated, roles in the processes that ended slavery in the United States.
This website features more than fifty primary sources from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Library of Congress that reveal how slavery, and debates about slavery, contributed to the formation of the United States. Using letters, diaries, broadsides, artifacts, songs, legal notebooks, and photographs representing a variety of viewpoints, this site highlights the complex nature of ideas about slavery and freedom that circulated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.