copyright the Chronicle February 26, 2014
The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810. By Harvey Amani Whitfield. Published by the Vermont Historical Society 2014. 140 pages with notes, documents and index. $19.95
Reviewed by Paul Lefebvre
The assertion that Vermonters kept slaves into the early years of the nineteenth century not only skews the state’s constitutional ban on slavery but also calls into the question the historical belief we have of ourselves as a people who believe in live and let live.
Surely there can be no place for such a belief where men can live off other men’s labor and sell their children. But that’s what historian Harvey Whitfield has found and documented in his new book, The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810.
For those who don’t have the date on the tip of their tongue, 1777 was the year Vermonters formed a Constitution that abolished slavery. Well, not quite. What the framers actually abolished was adult slavery. The children of the new black freemen could still be for sale.