It was crazy to listen to the class videos and hear that a lot of people hadn’t learned about things in our readings so far. I remember having an extensive learning experience on the subject of slavery when I was in middle school and highschool history classes. The teachers i had throughout school have contributed to my learning the most, but there is no excuse that all kids are not being taught the true horrors that African Americans experienced through in slavery. However, something I did learn about through our readings was the Walker court case. This decision clarified that “Massachusetts law did not protect slave property”. This allowed all bonds persons to now “sue for their freedom”, and got the ball rolling for slave reform beginning in New York and Pennsylvania. After learning about this court case and results, I began the formation of my research question.
After all of my prior knowledge on slavery, readings of chapter one and two, and discussions in class I concluded my research question to be: How many enslaved peoples sued for their freedom and won after the Walker decision in Massachusetts 1781?
I would begin my research by studying the Walker Case to better understand how Quock Walker was able to win his lawsuit while it was still present in that time period in many different states. After receiving an in-depth understanding of the background of the case, I would begin recording numbers of the Massachusetts State Census that recorded the number of slaves present each year. This information is available online on the Massachusetts Secretary of CommonWealth website (https://userpages.umbc.edu/~bouton/History407/SlaveStats.htm). Not only would I record the numbers, but also the names of the slaves. If their name did not show up on the following census, I would begin to research each name to see if they have passed away or fought for their freedom. I could find some of this information in newspapers published in that time period located on the Library of Congress’ website. Although a majority of these things are available online, there are hundreds of slaves in Massachusetts at that time, it would take several hours to get through the extensive amount of bonds people. I would have to find information of every single person’s case information, death report, and/or whether they were sold or traded to other slave holders. Some of the court case information could be located on The Massachusetts Historical Society website, they offer many original images of court cases in that time period (https://www.masshist.org/). However, not all of the original court decisions are still intact from that time, another option is to try and find the original book of records from that time period and if it still exists. By 1790, there were no recorded slaves in the state census in Massachusetts. Although I do have many resources at my fingertips and many that I could possibly track down and locate, it would be unrealistic to think that every slave’s life was recorded. It would be more common for this to be true if I were researching a white males life from that time period, but if the people in bondage had to sue for their basic human rights I doubt the government cared enough to document their life and how it ended or was lived.