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Piecemeal Emancipation and Black Freedom in Rhode Island, 1770-1842

March 10, 2014 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Christy Clark-Pujara outside at the top of a hill overlooking a city wearing a grey coat

Monday Seminar:

Christy Clark-Pujara

Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2013-2014)

Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison


During the Revolutionary period, enslaved people throughout British North America used the rhetoric of freedom and the chaos of war to challenge their enslavement. In Rhode Island, the destruction of slavery spanned seven decades; it began with an increase in slave flight followed by a spate of Quaker manumissions, black military service, and the passing of a gradual emancipation law (1784) which bolstered the ability of enslaved people to successfully lobby for self-purchase and term slavery. The state finally abolished slaveholding in 1842. Regardless of how they gained their freedom, black Rhode Islanders left the institution of slavery with few or no resources—the emancipation process, in conjunction with racist poor laws, served to impoverish newly freed people of color. Moreover, free blacks had to contend with a white citizenry that did not view them as citizens or even legitimate residents of the new nation. In response, they defied poor laws, built independent black institutions and began to develop a race-based political consciousness. For many black Rhode Islanders, the struggle for liberty was filled with fits and starts, misgivings, disappointments, and small victories.


Christy Clark-Pujara holds an REI Fellowship at the institute in the Spring of 2014. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Iowa and is an Assistant Professor in the Afro-American Studies Department. She will spend the semester revising her manuscript. Her primary teaching and research interests include African American History to 1865 and U.S. Slavery and Emancipation; she is particularly interested in the interplay between economics and the creation of race-based slavery. Born and raised in Nebraska, where being a Nebraska Corn Husker fan is mandatory, she struggles with who to root for on football Saturdays.


March 10, 2014
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States