Gravestones for early eighteenth-century enslaved Cambridge women, Cicely and Jane, have sat for centuries largely unexplored by scholars despite the markers' close proximity to Harvard University. This essay re-centers the lives and stories of such women, using their gravestones as a fulcrum to explore gender, race, memory, and the construction of early New England history.

A death's head, a stylized carving of cascading vines, and twenty-four words etched in slate attest to the life and death of a girl named Cicely. Her gravestone sits in the Old Cambridge Burial Ground across from Harvard University's Johnston Gate. Dwarfed by the altar tombs erected to memorialize wealthy Cambridge residents, Cicely's stone is strikingly

Fig. 1.—

Grave marker for an enslaved girl named Cicely. Photo provided by the author.

Fig. 1.—

Grave marker for an enslaved girl named Cicely. Photo provided by the author.

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ordinary, save for the fact that it proclaims the youth buried beneath it was the fifteen-year-old “negro servant to ye Reverend Mr. William Brattle.” Her tombstone, which faces the oldest university in the United States, is likely the oldest extant gravestone for an enslaved person in North America.1 Judge Samuel Sewall, a Brattle family friend and jurist who kept a diary for thirty years, remembered the day of her death as “exceeding dark at one Time in the morning” so much so that he had “hardly seen such Thick Darkness. Great Rain, considerable Lightening and Thunder.”2 But Samuel made no mention of Cicely's death or detailed the circumstances surrounding William Sr.’s decision to erect the tombstone.3 The extant Brattle family papers are likewise silent on the death of this girl they enslaved. Subsequent generations of historians have offered only passing acknowledgment of the marker and even less of Cicely.4 In the past two decades much has been illuminated about enslavement in the Northeast by parsing fragments and reading documents against the grain. Scholars have painstakingly reconstructed the narratives of people of African descent and offered a rich tapestry of experience, uncovering the centrality of enslavement to the project of colonization in the Northeast. New England's archives are famously prolific repositories mined for rendering the lives of Euro-Americans in three dimensions and have spawned our dominant narratives about religion, trade, geography, and gender. Cicely's exceptional but largely unsung memorial illuminates the ways such familiar constructions remain incomplete.

There is a poverty in the adjectives that we use to describe the lives of early non-white Americans, but Cicely was vital and real. She felt the cold snow on her skin every winter and knew the shores of the Charles River. She was a daughter and an African-descended' Christian convert in a community of Black people of various faiths, a New Englander, and a denizen of Cambridge. She was a girl on the cusp of womanhood with a body going through extreme change. She was a fifteen-year-old worker who lived and died during an epidemic.

History is a process of commemoration through stories that reflect a scholar's own personal lens. Cicely's story captivated me because the day that I stumbled upon her both ordinary and extraordinary marker, I was a Black teenager only four years older than Cicely was at her death. The questions that arose that windswept fall day in a colonial graveyard inspired me to pursue history and have continued to shape my intellectual pursuits. Although decades have passed and the work has taken me thousands of miles away from Cicely, her story continues to burn within me. The scholarly production of women of color such as Annette Gordon-Reed, Jennifer Morgan, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Stephanie Jones-Rogers, Thavolia Glymph, and Jennifer L. Morgan laid the intellectual groundwork for recovering untold stories such as Cicely's, offered inspiration to centralize the narratives of diverse early American women and the power to tell an integrated history.5 This article is an integrated microhistory of a slaveholding community that has served to inspire so many of Early America's historiographies. As such, it builds upon Wendy Warren's work recentering slavery's centrality to New England, the expansive Black communities made legible by Gloria Whiting, and the multilayered world of dependence presented by Jared Ross Hardesty.6 Silence is the common state of the archival record for most eighteenth-century women, and ever more so for the enslaved. But the frequently used phrase “little is known about the experience” of enslaved people during the Colonial Era, privileges the archives as the only repository of knowledge. Indeed, hanging trees and disappeared neighborhoods linger in the collective memories of Black and Brown people, whose knowledge has too often been decried as unhistorical. Even the most prolifically documented cases reinforce social fictions. I have approached those silences, deaths, and fictions by using the strategies deployed by scholars such as Marisa Fuentes, Carolyn Steedman, and Natalie Zemon Davis, whose works problematize the archive and examine them as sites where patterns of gendered and racialized violence are reinforced. Saidiya Hartman's critical fabulation influences my reading of these enslaved Cambridge women, and I embrace Hartman's challenge to compose a “history written with and against the archive.”7

Since the time that Laurel Ulrich penned that iconic aphorism, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” scholars have devoted millions of words to uncovering the lives of women—ordinary and extraordinary, enslaved and free— exploring and sharpening our understandings of the past. Combining familiar sources, such as colonial diaries and narratives, with archival and material culture artifacts, I argue that Cicely's story, and those of the enslaved men, women, and children who surrounded her, exposes how historical structures of race, gender, and status stand at the core of the classic scholarly narratives that have shaped American history. Cicely's enslavers were members of Bernard Bailyn's cohort of New England merchants and Sacvan Bercovitch's puritans. They were counted among Laurel Ulrich's “Well-behaved women” and birthed Mary Beth Norton's Liberty's Daughters.8 They were the elites whose wealth, generated by enslaved workers, built the foundations of American society and whose opinions became codified into law as well as into legends such as the “Protestant work ethic” and American exceptionalism.9 The lives and labor of people like Cicely lie silently behind these public legacies.

In the Old Burial Ground, lines of gray slate tombstones sit along winding footpaths, linking generations in family plots. The Latin-inscribed altar tomb of Cicely's enslaver, William Sr., stands among the decorative memorials to other eminent divines and Harvard presidents. Its weathered stone face bears the names of Brattle's wife, Elizabeth; his nephew, James Oliver; and Oliver's wife, Mercy. Cicely does not rest in close proximity to her enslavers, but rather near a burial mound used for Cambridge residents who succumbed to smallpox.10 No stones with the names of her grandparents, parents, brothers, or sisters encircle her memorial. Only the headstone of another enslaved African woman, Jane, who was the servant of Harvard steward Andrew Bordman and died nearly thirty years after Cicely, sits nearby. Thus, racial identification fills the gaping hole where kinship should be, for Cicely's marker forever declares that she was a Negro, a girl of fifteen whose short life was spent in perpetual servitude.11

This article foregrounds not her celebrated enslavers but Cicely herself, reconstructing what can be gleaned of her and her world through an examination of her gravestone in context, and acknowledging in that attempt the worth and full humanity of her story. It also integrates the family history of the Brattles within the broader development of slavery in New England. I position William Sr.’s role in early ecclesiastical struggles and controversies at Harvard in the context of increased slave importation and a local debate among his network of friends over the ethics of slavery. I piece together Cicely's story in the context of a wider group of baptized enslaved women and elite puritan female enslavers to examine how intimate realities and networks of female kinship and friendship were influenced by enslavement. Cicely's grave marker forms one link on a chain that connects the slaveholding world and personal actions of William Brattle Jr. to the brutal public execution of an enslaved woman named Phillis by burning at Gallows Lot (what is now the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Linnaean Street) less than a mile north of Old Cambridge Burial Ground.12 Phillis's trial offers a snapshot of the wider enslaved community and uncovers the ways in which memory, social relationship, and gender were central to the ways that commemoration was deployed against the enslaved.

It is not just Cicely's life but her labor that the Brattles memorialized in stone. Service publicly ties her to “ye Reverend William Brattle.” Cicely's short English inscription contrasts William Sr.’s long Latin memorial and would have been accessible to literate members of the community, a population which, as Antonio Bly notes, included enslaved people.13 Her tombstone was meant to mark out not just the days of her life but to serve as an example for others. She was part of the gendered labor of Black women and girls made legible by Felicia Thomas that appeared in Boston's early newspapers.14 That the memorialization of such labor also appears in the material culture of early New England cemeteries highlights the enslavers’ desire to make permanent sermons of racialized belonging and alienation for later generations. The markers of Cicely's family do not surround her final resting place, but at the time of her birth a community of enslaved people held by the Brattles and their friends had their names inscribed in diaries, church ledgers, wills, and account books. They would have experienced the physicality of Cicely's life and passed the gravestone erected in her honor. Scipio, one such person enslaved to William Sr., lived in the parsonage of Harvard's First Church as an unprofessed unbaptized person for at least seven years. The house overlooked Harvard College and contained a garden and fields, a cow, and fruit trees. Inside there were luxurious items and utilitarian pieces, as well as an enormous library. He was not there primarily to pray or to study but to work. Scipio's name first appears in William Sr.’s diary on February 10, 1698.15 The Brattles also employed a free white woman named Sarah Bradish as a domestic, whom they paid twelve pounds a year, a figure that offers some sense of the value Cicely's work would have netted her had she been a free woman.16 During the spring of that year, William Sr.’s diary contained descriptions of the construction of his garden, notations about labor conspicuously marked by passive voice. On April 2, he recorded, “Goose berry bushes planted and the first beans.”17 On April 4th, he wrote, “our garden was digged, Bushes set and seed sown,” and on April 5th, he noted, “the great peas and Boston peas were planted and also the carrots seed and parsnips sown. Oats sown.”18 He wrote of squashes and cucumbers planted, fields “plowed,” and a garden filled with “red ears [of corn] and beans.” But the agent of this work remains unacknowledged. It was likely Scipio who “planted,” “digged,” “set,” and “sowed,” as by December 7, William Sr. wrote that he had purchased “shoes for myself and Scipio.”19

Scipio's labor offered William Sr. the daily space to live the life of the mind and mentor the next generation of Harvard men, but the minister's wealth was an inheritance created out of the Atlantic market of war, bondage, and merchant capital. William Sr. was born into one of Boston's wealthiest families on November 22, 1662. The third child of the merchant Thomas Brattle and Elizabeth Tyng, his family were signatory members of the Plymouth Patent. At the time of his birth the Brattles and Tyngs owned considerable property in Boston, Maine, and Long Island. His father Thomas Sr.’s fortune even underwrote King Philip's War.20 William Sr.’s immediate family counted two older siblings, a brother named Thomas Jr. (b. 1658) and a sister named Elizabeth (b. 1660); three younger sisters, Katherine (b. 1664), Bethiah (b. 1666), and Mary (b. 1668); and a younger brother named Edward (b. 1670).21 They would grow up to make alliances that would cement the elite status of their family for generations and change the course of history. Their names and exploits would be used to shape historical narratives of settlement, trade, and religion in the region and the world. The Brattle houses, trading sites and merchant docks shaped the built landscape of Boston and Cambridge—Brattle Square and Brattle Streets—and physically inscribed their influence. Their stories were exalted in the histories of the nineteenth century, and by the early twentieth century, the work of the Harvard professor Perry Miller dominated the field of colonial American history, and, coupled with that of his student, Yale's Edmund S. Morgan, created a widely accepted rubric within which to understand colonial New England and the central tropes that contributed to the decline of puritanism.22

William Sr. was a founding member of this scholarly community. Along with his best friend and former Harvard classmate John Leverett, William Sr. ran the school during the absentee presidency of Increase Mather, writing a Latin primer on logic that would be translated and used in the college for over a century.23 In his student Benjamin Colman's remembrance, Brattle was an “Able, Faithful and tender Tutor,” but he also “search'd out Vice, and browbeat and punisht it with the Authority and just Anger of a Master.”24 Though Benjamin was describing the relationship between pupil and master, Jared Hardesty has noted that such hierarchies of power underwrote the entire system of dependence.25 Scipio experienced William Sr.’s domineering authority for two decades of enslavement, and the intellectual and spiritual pursuits that filled William Sr.’s days and those of Colman and his coterie of friends and colleagues were shaped by his intimate proximity. Scipio's labor, and those of other bonded people, afforded the Brattle brothers the time to found the Brattle Street Church in Boston, a monument to his and his brother Thomas's rejection of the Mathers’ form of congregationalism.26 Both men sought to further liberalize standards of baptism first introduced by the Halfway Covenant in the 1660s. Cicely's baptism and those of other enslaved people were a part of this process, but as Gloria Whiting argues, African-descended' congregants used such moments to publicly profess their own families and gendered connections.27 Both the Brattles and their rivals, the Mathers, presided over the baptisms of considerable numbers of non-white congregants, though there was some uneasiness about the relationship between baptism and earthly freedom at the time.28 The stakes were not merely the conversion of unreached people but a desire to augment numbers of congregants that subscribed to their perspective.

Scipio's long unbaptized sojourn among the Brattles, and the timing of his ultimate decision to enter into the covenant, highlights the role of work and enslavement in William's and Thomas's place in the history of puritan thought. The Brattle brothers’ religious philosophy embodied the shift in puritan thinking that Sacvan Bercovitch has argued characterized the second generation of American puritanism. During this period, individualism came into conflict with communalism when many people did not enter into the church covenant and therefore were not considered voting members in the colony. The decision to be baptized was made by puritan parents, but the decision to become a “visible saint” was a personal decision. That a large number of second-generation puritans made decisions opposed to membership illustrates the larger conflict between freedom and individualism in puritanism. Out of this conflict emerged the Halfway Covenant which, “while retaining the premises of visible sainthood … granted provisional church status to the still unregenerate children on the ground that, in their case, baptism alone conferred certain inalienable covenant rights.”29 The communities that surrounded theologians such as the Brattles held increasing numbers people in bondage, and such people caused some wary white enslavers to refuse to baptize these individuals, worried such spiritual emancipation might become physical.

Despite William Sr.’s theological influence and although other African-descended' people had been baptized by William Sr. at the First Church in Cambridge in his first years of ministry, Scipio was not among them. In January 1688, William Sr. baptized “Philip [field], negro servant of Mr. Danforth” in First Church, indicating the first known presence of Black people in the First Church of Cambridge, which then lay within Harvard's gates and served as the college chapel.30 Their lives were pulled along lines of kinship and friendship of the white congregants who filled the most prominent places in society, but they were a central part of the social and political fabric of English Protestant identity. A year before Cicely's birth in 1697, William Sr. married Elizabeth Hayman of Charlestown, a port with a bustling business to the West Indies.31 Cicely's grave marker reflects the distinctive style of Charlestown's Lamson family, stonecutters whose workshop was situated near the dock, where indentured and enslaved people worked.32 Elizabeth grew up among neighbors who held slaves. An enslaved African man named Sambo toiled for William Stitson, a deacon of First Church in Charlestown where her grandfather had served as tithingman; when she was a child, another enslaved man escaped to carry out a secret liaison with his chosen paramour, an enslaved woman who lived nearby, flouting his owner's wishes.33 As a child attending the First Church of Charlestown with her family, she might have known the enslaved couple noted only as “Dan Smiths Negro Mingo” and “Mr. Soley Negro” who were married at the church in 1687.34

Regular interactions with enslaved people shaped the thinking of at least one member of the Brattles' wider network. On June 19, 1700, Samuel Sewall noted that he comforted William Sr.’s sister Katherine as she stood at the burial of her first husband John Eyre, who was laid alongside the graves of their nine children. He wrote:

When I parted, I pray'd God to be favourably present with her, and comfort her in the absence of so near and dear a Relation. Having been long and much dissatisfied with the trade of fetching Negroes from Guinea; at last I had a strong Inclination to Write something about it; but it wore off.35

It is possible that the diary entry reflects the happenstance confluence of two separate ideas occurring to Sewall at separate times on the same day, but it is also possible that the funeral within a slaveholding family guided his thoughts towards slavery. Scipio, two African women who toiled for Katherine's sister Elizabeth and Jeffrey, a Black mariner enslaved in Katherine's sister Mary's household, were likely among the crowd that burial day.36 Additionally, the enslaved people of Brattle's elite friends may have made up a significant portion of those gathered. The presence of enslaved Africans among the Brattles and those gathered may have turned Sewall's mind to “the trade of fetching Negroes from Guinea.” The sight of so many of those enslaved Africans who had been baptized by William Sr. himself standing among their mourning owners might have prompted in Sewall this “strong Inclination to Write something about” the slave trade.

Although Sewall indicated that the initial feeling of indignation “wore off,” shortly thereafter he authored The Selling of Joseph, the result of both his increasing misgivings about the morality of the slave trade and the perpetual servitude of enslaved Africans, many of whom had converted to Christianity, and also his racist unease with the growing numbers of Black people in the colonies. In it, he compared the holding of African slaves to the immorality of the Biblical Joseph's enslavement at the hands of his brothers. After writing The Selling of Joseph, Sewall distributed it to several close friends, which most certainly would have included William Sr., his “Fast Friend,” and ultimately entered a heated debate with John Saffin over the matter of the promised freedom of Saffin's slave, Adam.37

In The Selling of Joseph, Samuel Sewall described racial difference as primarily affecting character, but his work also showcases Samuel's visceral disgust at the physical difference of people categorized as “Negro”:

All things considered, it would conduce more to the Welfare of the Province, to have White Servants for a Term of Years, than to have Slaves for Life. Few can endure to hear of a Negro's being made free; and indeed they can seldom use their freedom well; yet their continual aspiring after their forbidden Liberty, renders them Unwilling Servants. And there is such a disparity in their Conditions, Colour & Hair, that they can never embody with us, and grow up into orderly Families, to the Peopling of the Land; but still remain in our Body Politick as a kind of extravasat Blood.38

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines “embody” as “to invest or clothe (a spirit) with a body” and includes John Healey's 1610 translation of Augustine's City of God describing “Devills beeing imbodyed in ayre;” an image that the former Salem witchcraft judge would have found familiar.39 William Brattle's older brother Thomas Jr. had penned a scathing rebuke of spectral evidence expressing a skepticism that was strikingly modern and instrumental to turning public opinion against the trials.40 But the ghost of such spectral reasoning lingered as part of early modern scientists’ intellectual worlds. If Africans were incorporated into the general spirit of Massachusetts society, Samuel Sewall reasoned, the result would be a sick body. Indeed, the African part, according to Samuel, would extravasate, or “force its way out,” like contaminated blood leaking from an infected body. Samuel was speaking a scientifically infused language that other like-minded lay doctors like William Brattle and Cotton Mather would have understood. It was physical and tactile, the language of examination. Invasive bodily inspections and harsh emetics were prescribed to root out diseased “Conditions.” Indeed, in February of 1700, the year before The Selling of Joseph was published, William Sr. would self-prescribe “a vomit of ye wine physic” and “hot ear & water porrage & feaver balsam (fennel) in warm water for 30 hours.”41 His probate inventory was filled with other such tinctures and remedies.42 Samuel turned a medical gaze towards the bodies of African New Englanders, categorizing their Color as “disparity,” his words evoking eyes and hands that inspected the hair of enslaved people like Cicely, whose texture and care would have presented a stark difference. His remedy for the body politic was the expulsion of Blackness and a regular infusion of whiteness in the form of “White Servants for a Term of Years.”

The racial implications of the growing feud among the Mathers, Brattles, and Sewalls spilled out when Cotton hotly defended his father's threatened position as president of Harvard College by directly referencing the slavery that had come to shape how he too encountered the world. Believing Samuel to have supported the Brattle opposition against his father Increase's absentee presidency of Harvard, Cotton stormed into the Boston bookseller Richard Wilkins's shop.43 He complained that Samuel had “used his father worse than a Negar” and “spake so loud that people in the street might hear him.” Cotton turned his attention to Samuel's son, folding the elder Sewall's antislavery scruples into his racially charged diatribe: “That one pleaded much for Negros” but had “used” Increase “worse than a Neger.”44 In remembering the public shaming of the moment, Samuel assigned the incidents to the margins, as if extravaset from the main body of the text. Cotton made public sentiments that the jurist had taken pains to circulate privately as the pamphlet The Selling of Joseph among a chosen coterie of friends.45 His intention was to dishonor Samuel, using a racially infused slang that had been in circulation across the Northeast since the seventeenth century.46 Sam did not share his father's misgivings about the trade and in later years locally traded enslaved men and women.47

By the turn of the eighteenth century, Cambridge's and Boston's lawmakers passed laws prohibiting any “Indian, negro or molatto servant, or slave” from traveling abroad after nine o'clock because of the “great disorders, insolencies and burglaries” which troubled “her majesty's good subjects.”48 Enslavers were required to post a bond of £50 before manumitting any “mollato or negro slave.”49 Nonetheless, on May 20, 1705, William Sr. witnessed the will of his parishioner Peter Town, who painstakingly provided freedom for Mingo, Charles, and Fidella, people enslaved by himself and his wife.50 He even provided an inheritance to his “once negro servant Jane, who lives at Boston,” to have “ye sum of five pound paid her within six months of my decease.”

Several weeks later, on June 10th, William Sr. baptized Mingo and Charles, alongside Jeffrey “the negro servant of Mr. Goff,” and also Scipio, who had by then been enslaved by Brattle for at least seven years.51 Scipio's choice to be baptized alongside two men destined for emancipation likely linked his profession with his desire for freedom. It would be another fourteen years before Scipio would successfully petition for his freedom, “praying the favour” of the Massachusetts Court “that the estate of his said late Master may be Indemnified from any Charge that may happen by him, in case he be made free.”52 The £50 charge would have made little difference to the Brattles, but Scipio's logic of fiscal responsibility was the language he used to self-emancipate, as Brattle's will left no written provision for his freedom. The Brattles’ massive holdings sprawling across two communities and several colonies formed the landscape of those people enslaved by them. Bisected by the Charles River, it was a world shaped by the water as much as the land.

Another man named Jeffrey was a sailor enslaved by William Sr.’s sister Mary and brother-in-law John Mico. How he first gained experience on the water is unclear, but sources indicate that by the summer of 1704, he had travelled the Atlantic world. On May 6, 1703, John wrote a letter to Captain Samuel White concerning Jeffrey on his voyage from Barbados to London, “I entreat you to provide Care of him” and noted, “I have brought him up from a Child and have avallue for him; but I commit him to You.”53 He also entreated the captain to allow Jeffrey the liberty to visit the Mico family in London. Despite his concern for Jeffrey's welfare, any emotional “avallue” that John placed upon the enslaved man was expressed in stark financial terms.54 By the time of his writing, John had been married to William Sr.’s sister Mary for fourteen years and the two had no living children. The Micos lived in a large house on School Street in Boston and attended the Brattle Street Church.55 Such a lifestyle was owing to his merchant ventures including a fish trade between New England and the Caribbean, which provisioned the enslaved population on the islands with fish often in a condition too rotten to be sold in New England.56 In eight years, their household would also include a little girl named Cicely, who was owned by William Sr. but lived frequently enough with the Micos to be presented for baptism by Mary.

Despite their absence in the archival record, Cicely had parents and a natal connection to Africa that condemned her to servitude and would be noted on her gravestone in perpetuity. Perhaps one of the two African-descended' women who toiled for William's sister Katherine Oliver and were enumerated as maids were known more intimately as mother to Cicely. At the time of Nathaniel Oliver's death in 1704, he bequeathed the two women's lives as part of a large estate with property valued at ₤5250.7.10, including a “brick warehouse, brew-house, salt-house, one fourth of windmill on Fort Hill, goods in warehouses to the amount of ₤1260,” and his “house, stable, etc. in Boston.”57 Whether or not these women were related by kinship, they were linked by bondage. We can only imaginatively reconstruct Cicely's daily life from our fragments of knowledge about the cultural and labor practices of other enslaved women in Colonial Massachusetts. William Piersen noted the persistence of the African spinning “on a stick centered on a plate, rather than with a loom,” as part of the technique used by an African woman named Dinah enslaved in Salem.58 African histories were thus passed down in the hands and labor of enslaved women, as they were in the sorrow songs, pottery, and naming practices throughout the diaspora. Such weaving skills, Felicia Thomas observes, were part of a young enslaved girl’s instruction and highlighted in Boston's slave-for-sale advertisements.59 Brattle's probate inventory offers possible clues into Cicely's daily life: her work likely involved handling the “brass kettle” and “pewter quart pot” listed there.60 Servile work was essential to Brattle, who hosted functions such as prayer meetings and meetings of the Harvard Corporation, which convened in his home less than one month before Cicely's death. Formal gatherings would have meant presenting and handling “China earthen, ware & glasses,” to elite attendees.61 A domestic like Cicely would have mended Brattle's expensive wardrobe using “Sowing & sticking silk” and served countless cups of tea sweetened with “white sugar” or perhaps drinking “chocolate,” products of slave production that also appeared in the lines of the Brattles’ inventory.62 The “child's whistle with coral in it,” would have been diverting fun for the little boy who was only three years Cicely's junior but would have been looked after by workers like Cicely. Boarded domestics would have slept on “old bedstead, cord and strawbed” in the attic of the Parsonage as if stored alongside the “7 old pillows,” “4 old Trunks,” “an old chest & old lumber.”63 Cicely's intimate life can never be fully reconstructed from the scraps and ephemera of her enslavers, but revisiting the context of such material evidence emphasizes that for fifteen years she lived, and touched, and breathed, and was known within a community of enslaved, bonded, and free people.

On February 7, 1714, Cicely stood before the community in Boston's Brattle Street Church at her baptism. At that event, she was identified not primarily as a convert but as the negro servant to William Sr.’s sister Mary Mico.64 Although her epitaph memorializes her as the servant of “ye Reverend William Brattle,” Cicely clearly spent at least some part (if not most) of her life with Mary across the Charles River in Boston. Mary was just as likely as her minister brother to have taken an active role in Cicely's conversion. As mistress of the house, Mary would have shouldered the responsibility of religious education to household dependents, which included the little girl whom they held in bondage. Cicely was noted as an adult in the church register, in keeping with local tax laws that counted enslaved girls as adults at fourteen, but also presented as a “dependent” of Mary, starkly illuminating her liminal position in the community. Cicely may have been the only little girl in the Mico household, as Mary and John had no children. On the occasion of her baptism, Cicely needed to be conversant on two levels: communicating her salvation experience in terms deemed satisfactory in a household with highly specific religious expectations and remaining faithful to an interpretation of the fifth commandment, which admonished lifelong obedience to her slave owners.65 Cicely's life would have been spent in service to an entire community of elite white women. William Sr. painstakingly recorded their names and inheritances in his own will. He left money, cows, medicines, and other things to nineteen women who were not relatives. He entrusted Sarah Leverett, “sister loving, cousin carter & Elizabeth hicks,” with carrying out the distribution of “several petty things which shall be left when my family breaks up” including food, goods and clothing “to my Christian neighbors & friends & poor people.” Elizabeth and Ruth Hicks had cared for William Sr. after his ill health caused by his battle with measles, four years earlier.66 In the event that his son did not outlive him, he willed that his siblings be given two hundred pounds each and specifically that his sister, Sarah Mico, who upon her own husband's death in 1718 did not inherit his house or goods, would be left “all my lands lying & being in the Town of Cambridge.”67

Such women would have embodied many of the characteristics of the group Laurel Ulrich famously termed “well-behaved women”:

Cotton Mather called them ‘the Hidden Ones.’ They never preached or sat in a deacon's bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard. Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven't been. Well-behaved women seldom make history; against Antinomians and witches, these pious matrons have had little chance at all.68

But what did it mean to be a well-behaved Black woman in eighteenth-century Boston and Cambridge? Cicely lived in a world dominated by the rhythms of sermons and Bible Study. She lived in the shadow of academia but could not attend, and like other such “well-behaved women” her life and history have been largely forgotten by time. Tombstones erected by puritan enslavers and directed towards the Black and white communities should be read as texts central to New England's religious culture.69 Black and Native gathering for the deceased during times of death caused ruling Boston and Cambridge residents to alter the auditory landscape of their communities. Instead of tolling many times as it would for white funerals, for Black and Native people, the bell would only toll once.70 The silence that followed should be understood as a purposeful aspect of racialization, even of the dead.

Cicely died on a Sunday in April, but she was not alone. The 1713–1714 measles epidemic ravaged the young population of Brattle Street Church, occasioning Benjamin Colman to preach and ultimately publish a sermon entitled A Devout Contemplation On the Early DEATH Of Pious and Lovely Children.71 The Sermon was given in remembrance of “Mrs. Elizabeth Wainwright. Who departed this life, April the 8th. 1714.” Elizabeth was one year younger than Cicely and was also a baptized member of Brattle Street Church. Rev. Colman addressed his sermon to the youth of his flock and also named the “son of Major Fitch” as having also died. And while he did not explicitly name Cicely, vestiges of her story can be read in the lines of Colman's text to his surviving flock, which would have included Mary Mico, who had recently buried Cicely. He opined, “Again, The Death of pious Children teaches us this also of a Principle of Grace, that where it once is, the Soul is safe. Let Death come as soon as it will after a persons Coversion [sic], when once a Sanctifying Change has passed on him, be he never so young, the Soul is safe.” Cicely's baptism in February was quickly followed by her death in April, a pattern that Colman called out for special mention. He ended his sermon with an allusion to the Joseph story when he urged, “We must not repeat Jacobs Error, who supposed himself bereaved, when Joseph was only Advancing under the special Favour of Providence in Another Countrey.” Joseph had not indeed passed over the veil of death but had been sold by his brothers to slavery in Egypt, a specificity that Colman would have readily known as he would have also known the furor caused by Sewall and Saffin's public row over the antislavery interpretation of the Joseph story in light of the enslaved African-descended population.

Cicely's life in colonial Cambridge was filled not only with religious rites but also death and racial violence. On February 15, 1712, Samuel Sewall recorded that William Sr. “prayed at the place of Execution,” for an enslaved man named Mingo who had been sentenced to death “for forcible Buggery,” against Abigail Dowes, and another unidentified person. Mingo was enslaved to Wait Winthrop, who was married to Katherine, William Sr.’s sister, and lived near the Micos.72 The trial record offers the bawdy “Cocke” as an alias for Mingo, an appellation that historian Jim Downs notes as an example of the hypersexualized stereotype placed upon Black men and the scholarly origin story that roots homosexuality in the colonial world with Black criminality.73 Cicely's enslavement intersected Mingo, and it is not unreasonable to assume that she would have had knowledge of the uproar. She would have heard the casual appellation meant to evoke shame and may have had to call him by the denigrating name. She might have also known Abigail, who was the same age as she and lived in the community. Two months later news poured into Boston of a New York slave revolt, with the News-Letter detailing, “‘tis fear'd that most of the Negro's here (who are very numerous) knew of the Late Conspiracy to Murder the Christians; six of them have been their own Executioners by Shooting and cutting their own Throats”74 Benjamin Colman himself wrote the following to his friend Robert Woodrow:

We are serv'd here in this Town very much by blacks or Negro's in our Houses. Scarce a House but has one, excepting the very poor. Those slaves grow disorderly, taking their time in the nights for diverse wickednesses. The Town at one of their Meetings took this into Consideration, and ordered that no Negro should be in the Street after nine in the Evening without a ticket from his master; and if any were so found they should be had to the House of Correction and whippt 6. or 7. lashes. When a few of ‘em had been served so, fires were kindled about Town every day or night; the cry of fire terrified us from time to time; one fire only prevailed (thro’ the mercy of God) and burnt down two smal Tenements: twenty others were discovered in their kindling. At last one or two Negroes appear'd Guilty, and one was prov'd so and is condemned to die. And so we sleep in peace again thro’ the favour of God to us.75

For Benjamin, the “just anger” of a slaveholding community called for “the House of Correction,” the punishment of being “whippt 6. or 7. Lashes,” or even death. His was an elite world surrounded by the enslaved, one filled with disorder, wickedness and dark designs. It was one enforced by the lash and secured by public execution. And it was in this world that Cicely lived and died.

By the time that Colman slept “in peace again thro’ the favour of God,” after the policing and execution of Black people, Cicely had been dead for a decade. Similarly deceased were Elizabeth and William Brattle, as well as hundreds of others, felled by the measles epidemic that tore through New England and its lingering syndromes. The week that Cicely died, the News Letter ran an advertisement for a pamphlet by Cotton Mather, entitled “A Perfect Recovery, Being what was Exhibited at Boston–Lecture to the Inhabitants after they had passed thro’ a very Sickly Winter. With some Remarks on the shining Patterns of Piety, left by some very Young Persons, who Dyed in the common calamity.”76 Mather had lost his own wife, Maria; infant twins; and three-year-old daughter in the “Sickly Winter.” Nearly thirty years later, a tombstone would be erected to a Black woman, lost during another deadly epidemic.77 The epitaph reads:

Jane a Negro servnt [damaged]

Andrew Bordman

Esqr; Died March

11th, 1740 Aged 22 Years & 3 months.

Fig. 2.—

Grave marker for an enslaved woman named Jane. Old Cambridge Burial Ground. Photo provided by the author.

Fig. 2.—

Grave marker for an enslaved woman named Jane. Old Cambridge Burial Ground. Photo provided by the author.

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The Bordman family papers list the names, relationships, and birth dates of Jane's family, including her mother, Rose, who would have been Cicely's contemporary and whose name preceded the names and birthdates of four children—Jane, Flora, Jeffrey, and Cesar—born between 1718 and 1733.78 Rose was a member of the Christian community in Cambridge and was baptized in February 1730.79 In 1741, Andrew Bordman Jr. noted Jane's death in his journal, writing:

Jane—(after Recovering of a Throat distemper to such a measure of health as to get down Stairs and abroad) was taken ill of a Languishing Slow Feavour of which She Lay ill 24 days and then Expired 11 Mar 1740/1 about half an hour after Nine oClock P.M. Aged 22 years 3 months and 6 days. Buryd 13day.80

Jane, like Cicely, died during an outbreak, and the evidence of the almanac makes the case ironclad that she perished from diphtheria, scarlett fever, or, as it was known in the early eighteenth century, “throat distemper.” Jane, like Cicely, was given a marked burial in Old Cambridge Burial Ground. In the space between their two gravestones lies a community history of disease, death, and domestic insurrection. Between Cicely and Jane's deaths in 1714 and 1741, respectively, a smallpox crisis gripped Boston, inflaming racial tensions. Mather, an amateur scientist and a member of the Royal Society, turned to his slave Onesimus and the enslaved community for a defense against the ravages of smallpox in 1721. Several years earlier, Onesimus reported to Mather that he had “undergone an Operation, which had given him something of the Small-Pox & would forever praeserve him from it; adding that it was often used among the Guramantese.” When smallpox swept through the colony during the summer of 1721, Mather and William Brattle's former student and eulogizer Benjamin Colman interviewed enslaved people in Boston about their experiences of smallpox inoculation in Africa. Mather and Zabdiel Boylston submitted Boylston's son as well as his enslaved man servant and child as test subjects. The consultation of Black people caused a strident debate in Boston, but the inoculation bore favorable results.81 On its heels, a five-year long diphtheria epidemic ravaged New England, beginning in the town of Kingston, New Hampshire in 1735 before spreading up through Maine and down through Massachusetts and Connecticut, ultimately killing 5,000, including Jane. At the same time, smallpox was ravaging South Carolina, killing up to a quarter of white colonists who caught the disease, but only half as many Black people (as many had prior exposure). In late 1739, a group of enslaved people used the opportunity presented by this epidemic and their Angola religious cosmologies to overthrow their enslavers and try to escape in what would come to be called the Stono Rebellion.82 Just seven days after Jane's death and six months after the Stono Rebellion, the first in a series of fires broke out in New York. With the memory of Stono still fresh, these events would ultimately spark fears of a wide-ranging slave conspiracy, planned with the help of local poor whites, which would lead to the public execution of thirty people as well as the mass deportation of seventy others. Less than one mile north from Cicely and Jane's final resting place is the execution grounds of Cambridge Common, the location where another enslaved woman named Phillis was burned at the stake in 1754.

Cambridge and Boston's enslaved community in midcentury had become augmented by the arrival of Caribbean transplants. Such white and Black Barbadian emigrees moved in alongside the Brattles in a neighborhood of mansions that ran towards Harvard College and would come to be known as Tory Row.83 But bonded people were connected in larger communities that stretched from Cambridge to Concord, Boston to Charlestown. The broader world of two enslaved people—Phillis, enslaved as a child to John Codman in Charlestown, and Robin, to the Vassalls—intersected Jane and her family, as well as Philicia, Zilliah, and Rose.84 The familiar geographies of local life would have included the burial ground that faced Harvard College, which already contained the decorative memorial to Cicely's life and death, as well as the execution area of Boston Common, where another woman named Maria was burned to death three decades earlier, executed alongside two enslaved Black men who were hanged.85 The social world of William Jr., the little boy left behind when William, Elizabeth, and Cicely died, was likewise marked by landmarks of enslavement. He was orphaned at the age of eleven but inherited one of the largest fortunes in the colony and attended Harvard College. In 1728, during his time at the college, Cambridge passed laws against street gambling attributed to “young people, servants & negroes.”86 He maintained connections to his parents’ circle of friends, people like Andrew Bordman and Elizur Holyoke. He also deepened his social ties in New England's regional elite by marrying Katherine Saltonstall, daughter of Connecticut Judge Gurdon Saltonstall. Andrew listed the births of William Jr.’s children, Thomas and Elizabeth, in his almanac.87

The stories told by the memorials to enslaved female “servants” in the municipal burial ground were meant to resonate with the next generation. Such markers emphasized lifelong service to recognizable elite families and conversion to the Christian faith. Family connections were erased, though it is likely that the enslaved community carried some knowledge of the connection that Cicely, and later Jane, had to their own communities. They would have inhabited the same spaces as their ancestors, cramped attics, and tended the same gardens. But some might also have been housed in slave quarters, as was the case of those enslaved by the Royals. This change in the physical geography of the era termed the “Refinement of America” is one that has been primarily told from the point of view of white consumers and not of the Black and brown people whose lives were consumed.88 At the same time, William Jr.’s fortunes rose during this era of opulence, and he bought a mansion located on Brattle Street, with gardens and a mall that led to the Charles River. His neighbor, Henry Vassall, was one of the largest slaveholders in the region, and the two men housed enslaved people in their attics.89 William Jr. filled his home with treasures and supplied his daughter with a lavish dowry which he placed in an iron chest.90 In April 1752, smallpox ravaged Cambridge and, attempting to escape the outbreak, the Brattles left their mansion in Cambridge for the countryside. They left their enslaved man Dick behind to face the disease.91 Neighbor Henry Vassall had likewise quit the area for the socially distanced safety his resources could offer, creating an opportunity for his enslaved man Robin to effect his escape. Working in concert with a white indentured servant, Robin and Dick made off with William Jr.’s iron chest. It contained a fortune, more than enough to finance Robin's planned escape, first to New France and then to France. But the splendor of his haul made it impossible to fence, and the two men were caught and imprisoned in Concord.92

William Jr.’s attempt to flee the disease in the countryside had been unsuccessful. His wife died of smallpox just a week after they quit the college town. His return to Cambridge and Robin's subsequent trial set a series of events in motion that upended the enslaved community.93 Following the trial, William Jr. was awarded more than just his daughter's dowry: he was given Robin's life to “dispose of” as he wished.94 He sold him to his colleague Dr. William Clark, an apothecary who lived in Boston. Three years of enslavement to Clark had furnished Robin with a knowledge of poisons. When his friend, Mark, approached him complaining of his recalcitrant master named John Codman, who was keeping him from visiting his wife and child in Boston, as well as physically and sexually abusing his bondspeople, Robin offered a deadly solution.95

But the poisoning's domestic setting and its relationship to Black and white women's intimate lives, presented in stark gendered and religious terms, is preserved in the court record. A, by then, elderly Phillis administered the poison, after Mark had “read the Bible through” and determined that they could guiltlessly kill John by refraining from “bloodshed.” After what must have sounded to the elite white court as a familiar yet disordered Bible study, the male action in the case dropped away, save for John who was acted upon. On “the Sabbath day morning before the last Sacrament,” it was “Phebe and Phillis” who “made a solution which they kept secreted in a vial” and “mixed with the water-gruel and sago.”96 Such testimony must have been uncomfortably close to William Jr.’s own memories of his father's last moments being tended to by female domestics using physics and cures. Indeed, the poison was sometimes given by the enslaved women, but also, unknowingly, by John's daughters.97 The dependence of the white household women on the knowledge of enslaved women, one that ultimately led to them unknowingly committing patricide, was a stark inversion of the funeral sermons memorializing white women nursing ailing servants. Benjamin Colman (William Sr.’s former student) had eulogized his daughter, Mary Colman Turell, in 1735, writing: “To her Servants she was good and kind, and took care of them, especially of the Soul of a Slave who dy'd (in the House) about a Month before her.”98 Indeed, according to Phillis, his daughter Molly had discovered the lead that they had used to poison his porridge, and asked Phillis “[w]hat it was.” When she “told her I did not know,” Mary did not press the issue.99 Similarly, her sister Betty noticed that the “watergruel” had “turned yellow,” and she asked Phillis about it. Phillis “gave her no answer” but instead threw it away and was not questioned.100

On August 29, 1755, William Jr. was subpoenaed to give witness against Mark and Phillis, which he did on the following day. He faced a court presided over by Stephen Sewall, Samuel Sewall's son.101 The judgement given by the court was brutal. Mark was ordered to be publicly hanged and after death his body gibbetted, while Phillis was ordered to be burned at the stake. Phillis would not have been a stranger to William Jr., as she testified that she was purchased by John Codman “when I was a little girl” in Charlestown, where William Jr.’s mother's family lived.102 That Phillis was part of the interconnected community of enslavers and enslaved people that surrounded William Jr. is evident when she said that she knew Robin, who had grown up next door to William and shuttled between Cambridge and Charlestown, “for many years.”103 Mark and Phillis’s execution was attended by a massive crowd. The Boston Evening Post featured the execution:

The Fellow was hanged, and the Woman burned at the Stake about Ten Yards distant from the Gallows. They both confessed themselves guilty of the Crime for which they suffered, acknowledged the Justice of their Sentence, and died very penitent. After Execution, the Body of Mark was brought down to Charlestown Common, and hanged in Chains, on a Gibbet erected there for that Purpose.”104

Was William Jr. among the massive crowd that attended the execution? If he heard Phillis's final “penance” followed by shrieks of agony, did he remember the little enslaved girl named Cicely whom he had known as a boy, who was buried just a short walk away? William Jr.’s friend John Winthrop noted the brutality of the execution in the margins of his almanac, writing, “a terrible spectacle in Cambridge 2 negro's belonging to Capt. Codman of Charleston executed for petit treason, for murdering their said master by poison. They were drawn upon a sled to the place of execution; & Mark, a fellow about 30, was hanged; & Phillis, an old creature, was burnt to death.105 John's shock at the spectacle is encapsulated in his underlining of “burnt to death” and his use of the descriptors “an old creature” to describe Phillis. Indeed, it was only the second time that an enslaved person (both times a woman) was executed publicly in such a way in Massachusetts, and at the first instance, Cotton Mather had described the execution of Maria as “a picture of hell, too, in a negro then burnt to death at the stake.”106 But the public execution of an elder within the enslaved community must have been a seismic shock to the people enslaved within close proximity to the burning. In contrast to white antinomians and witches, infamy did not offer Phillis and other non-white women a place in history. Her punishment was meant to consume—her life, her body, and her memory. After execution, Mark's body was placed in a gibbet along the road to Charlestown as a physical public warning to the community both enslaved and free, a gruesome memento mori. Years later in Paul Revere's 1798 letter to Jeremy Belknap, he used Mark's remains as a geographical landmark to indicate the location where he came upon British regular troops in 1775: “After I had passed Charlestown Neck, and got nearly opposite where Mark was hung in chains, I saw two men on Horseback, under a Tree. When I got near them, I discovered they were British officers.”107 Though Mark's remains no longer hang in Charlestown, Cicely and Jane's gravestones endure as physical markers to the interconnected lives and deaths of those enslaved by Cambridge's elite.

On February 23, 1760, Cato Hanker, a free Black man from Cambridge who served in the Massachusetts colonial militia, requested his pension for fighting in the Seven Years’ War. He chose then Captain William Brattle Jr. to pen his petition: “Cato Hanker, a free negro in Cambridge humbly sheweth that March last he enlisted himself a souldier in the Provincial Service against Canada by your Excellency's order went to Castle William from thence went to Crown Point where he remained until orderly dismissed.”108 William Jr.’s family owned the land at Crown Point where he had been stationed to command and likely knew Cato from within his own Cambridge community. In petitioning for his pension, Cato Hanker was participating in a form of public protest that members of the enslaved community would use in order to petition Massachusetts's courts for freedom.

William Jr. too was also increasingly engaged in public protest. In 1765, incensed by the duties levied by the British government, he became a member of the Stamp Act Congress. But by 1771, his fortunes, and political sensibilities had shifted when he was made major general of the royal militia.109 That same year, Ebenezer Pemberton, grandson to William Sr.’s friend and ministerial colleague, published a sermon in memory of George Whitfield. At the end, he included a poem penned by an enslaved girl with a genius for writing named Phillis Wheatley.110 William Jr. would have likely known this Phillis who was feted in the homes of Boston and Cambridge elites, as he had the other Phillis whose public burning had been the result, in part, of his testimony. In 1771, Phillis Wheatley was baptized at Old South Church into the congregation of the Brattle Street Church that had been founded in 1699 by William Jr.’s father and his uncle Thomas, the same congregation where Cicely had also been baptized.111

Circumstances for the enslaved and free community were changing rapidly. In 1772, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw's narrative describing the horrors of the slave trade was published, and the Somerset case directly challenged enslavement in Britain, a precedent Boston's slaves read as an opportunity. In 1773, while William Jr. supported Governor Gage's notion that the judiciary be rightly limited by the crown, engaged in a public debate with John Adams, was selected to represent Massachusetts in a committee, and was tasked with drawing the divide with New York, Benjamin Rush offered his own appeal against the slave trade, including Phillis as an exemplar of the talents of the enslaved.112 The same year, Peter Bestes and other free and enslaved people petitioned the Massachusetts Courts for freedom.113 By 1774, a private letter sent by William Jr. warning General Thomas Gage of military supplies sent from Boston was intercepted and published in an incident known as the Powder Alarm. Following the incident, Brattle left Cambridge forever, retreating initially to Boston.

Unlike Cicely, William Jr. is not buried in Old Cambridge Burial Ground. The last published mention of William Jr. in his birth country appeared in the Boston Evening Gazette a year before his death, detailing his “flight” from “Boston to Halifax,” and derisively arguing that the rich scion had only “a singular talent at running away.”114 Forced to evacuate Boston in 1776, William Jr. left with Black loyalists like printer Boston King. His unmarked remains lie in Halifax, far from the rest of his family.115 But while William Jr.’s bones are not interred in Cambridge, his name graces sites across the Northeast, from Brattle Street in Cambridge to Brattlesboro, Vermont.116

On January 13, 1798, the Providence Gazette ran a notice of the death of “Dinah, a black woman, at the house of Thomas Brattle, Esq. Cambridge, Mass, aged 100 years.”117 In her century of life, she might have known Cicely, Scipio, Jane, and so many others. Indeed, she was born in 1698, a year before Cicely, and, at her death, she was enslaved to Thomas, William Jr.’s son. On May 6, 1782, Thomas's daughter, Katherine Brattle Wendell, who had remained on the Brattle property during the Revolutionary War while her father and brother fled, petitioned to remain in the estate. She wrote of her privation at being forced to maintain the expenses of the house alone while being compelled to host Patriot leaders such as George Washington and added, “Besides your memorialist has been at the expense of maintaining an aged slave left of the aforesaid estate, who has for year been incapable of service, and who must be considered as an incumbrance on the estate.”118 That “aged slave” was most likely Dinah, who was eighty-four at the time of the petition and would have been attached to the family estate in Cambridge that was ultimately claimed by Thomas. She would have, like Cicely before her, been passed between siblings in the Brattle family, forced to toil and to follow the circumstances of their lives. By the time that the notice of Dinah's death ran in the Providence Gazette, so much had changed from when Cicely's own memorial was etched in slate. The colonial world had given way to a new republic, and by 1782, enslavement had officially ended in Massachusetts, although racial segregation, inequity, poverty, and violence endured. But some geographies of that enslaved past, such as Cicely and Jane's tombstones, remained for three more centuries, as weathered tombstone memorials etched in curlicue writing and antiquated symbology. Despite their location among divines and elites whose histories have inspired of early America, precious little has been written of them in nearly three centuries. In contrast, our oldest libraries are filled with evidence and ephemera of the lives of their captors: papers and diaries, account books and wills. Black, female, and enslaved, Cicely and Jane were not meant to be remembered, and for three hundred years, they largely have not been. In a world where well-behaved white women seldom make history, Cicely and Jane's stories, seem to have been even more fated to fade into the silence of the past. But, perhaps, such expectations betray the assumptions of later ages. Etched in stone, they were intended to endure, and offer memorial to the social meanings of race, labor and memory. In the space between Cicely and Jane's tombstones lie the possibilities to interpret the meaning of their lives anew.


Considerable work is being done on excavating Black graveyards and graveyards with markers to African and African-descended' people in New England. As far as I am currently aware, the oldest extant markers for enslaved people exist in Rhode Island's “God's Little Acre,” but those were erected a few years after Cicely's memorial. Of course, the act of marking is culturally situated, with many West and Southwest Africans choosing very different methods to honor the memory of deceased people. Slate markers themselves are an English tradition, contrasting the sandstone used in early Dutch colonies which have not survived; thus, the survival of Cicely's’ marker must be analyzed sensitively, taking into account different cultural modes of commemoration. For current work on African and African American graveyards, see Glenn A. Knoblock, African American Historical Burial Grounds and Gravesites of New England (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2015). Caitlin Galante DeAngelis Hopkins has done considerable work analyzing New England's graveyards historically. Of particular note to this article, she briefly mentions Cicely and Jane's markers in a rigorous and highly useful discussion of New England's slave burials. Caitlin Galante DeAngelis Hopkins, “The Shadow of Change: Politics and Memory in New England's Historic Burying Grounds, 1630–1776” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2014), 110–11. For work that contrasts the material survivability of markers across cultures, see Brandon Richards, “Hier Leydt Begraven: A Primer on Dutch Colonial Gravestones,” Northeast Historical Archaeology 43, no. 2 (2014): 1–22.


Samuel Sewall, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, ed. M. Halsey Thomas (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), 2:752.


Although it remains convention to refer to historical actors by their last name after the first full instance of their name, I consciously break with this practice. Enslaved people were most frequently not given a family name and only identified by “Negro,” “Mulatto” or some other physical characteristic. I have opted to refer to everyone by their first name where clarity permits.


In contrast to the placement of Cambridge's enslavers within long historiographies of New England history, no similarly extended engagement exists for Cicely or Jane. Recent sermons and ongoing essay projects spearheaded by the First Church of Cambridge to reckon with the congregation's slaveholding past highlighted the gravestone's uniqueness and sought to foreground the lives of such enslaved African people owned by early ministers and congregants. First Church of Cambridge, “Owning our History,” 2018,; “Enslaved Africans and Native Americans at First Church in Cambridge,”; “Owning Our History: First Church and Race 1636--1873,”; and James Ramsey, “Stories Impossible to Tell: Meditations on the History of Slaveholding at First Church in Cambridge,” accessed October 1, 2021, There has been no extended historical analysis of her grave marker aside from the mention that I made of Cicely's story in my 2013 dissertation, but recent work directed towards a broader audience has begun the process of highlighting the importance of such narratives: Nicole Maskiell, “Bound by Bondage: Slavery Among Elites in Colonial Massachusetts and New York” (PhD diss., Cornell University, 2013), 71–88; Maskiell, “Cicely was young, Black and enslaved – her death during an epidemic in 1714 has lessons that resonate in today's pandemic,” The Conversation, December 2020, (accessed February 24, 2022); Stephen Smith and Kate Ellis, “Shackled Legacy: Universities and the Slave Trade,” Podcast, September 4, 2017,; Hopkins, “The Beautiful, Forgotten and Moving Graves of New England's Slaves,” October 26, 2016, Atlas Obscura,; C. Ramsey Fahs and Emma K. Talkoff, “Harvard Yard, Uncovered,” Harvard Crimson, November 19, 2015,; Jeff Neal “Amid the Old Burying Ground,” The Harvard Gazette, October 28, 2015,; and Sven Beckert, Katherine Steven, and the students of the Harvard and Slavery Research Seminar, Harvard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History,


Annette Gordon-Reed's recentering of the narrative of Thomas Jefferson's enslaved family members ushered in a seismic shift in widespread engagement with such non-white histories, although it also spawned a similar degree of scholarly backlash devoted to deploying the archival records to call into question such narratives. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham centered the need “to bring race more prominently” into “analyses of power.” Thavolia Glymph and Stephanie Jones-Rogers have centered a female world within slaveholding households in the early South, an essential framework to engage in an extended gendered and racial analysis of slavery and imagine white female enslavers as active agents of enslavement. Jennifer Morgan's work offered an indispensable framework with which to engage with gender, labor, and the physicality of enslaved women's bodily production as crucial to the emergence of racial notions of black inferiority and white supremacy. Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008; repr., New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009); Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, “African-American Women's History and the Metalanguage of Race.” Signs 17 (1992): 252; Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019); Jennifer L. Morgan, “‘Some Could Suckle over Their Shoulder’: Male Travelers, Female Bodies, and the Gendering of Racial Ideology, 1500–1700,” William and Mary Quarterly 54 (1997): 167–92; and Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).


Wendy Warren, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016); Gloria McCahon Whiting, “Power, Patriarchy, and Provision: African American Families Negotiate Gender and Slavery,” Journal of American History 103 (2016): 583–605; Whiting, “Race, Slavery, and the Problem of Numbers in Early New England: A View from Probate Court,” WMQ 77 (2020): 405–40; and Jared Ross Hardesty, Unfreedom: Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth-Century Boston (New York: New York University Press, 2016).


For more on the archive as a site of power, see Marisa J. Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017); Carolyn Steedman, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002); Natalie Zemon Davis, Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997); and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995; repr., Boston: Beacon Press, 2015). For an excellent overview of the ways in which the continental Dutch historical narrative, which largely erases slavery, was shaped by a conscious manipulation of the archive, see Dienke Hondius, Blackness in Western Europe: Racial Patterns of Paternalism and Exclusion (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2014), 2; and Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 26 12, no. 2 (2008): 2, 12.


Bernard Bailyn, The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955); Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978); Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Vertuous Women Found: New England Ministerial Literature, 1668–1735,” American Quarterly 38 (1976): 20, 35; and Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750–1800 (1980; repr., Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996).


Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism and Other Writing, ed. and trans. Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells (1905; repr. New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 14.


A Self-Guided Tour of The Old Burying Ground, Collections of the Cambridge Historical Commission, 2.


For a wonderful reading of Elizabeth Freeman's grave, situated among the Sedgwick family of Sheffield, see Sari Edelstein, “‘Good Mother, Farewell’: Elizabeth Freeman's Silence and the Stories of Mumbet,” New England Quarterly 94 (2019): 584–614.


Map of Cambridge featuring Gallows Lot, Emily M., “Time Travel Tuesday: Spooky Stories from Cambridge History,” October 31, 2017, The Cambridge Historical Commission: Archives & Library Blog, accessed October 21, 2020,


Antonio T. Bly, “‘Pretends he can read’: Runaways and Literacy in Colonial America,” Early American Studies 6 (2008): 261–94.


Felicia Y. Thomas, “‘Fit for Town or Country’: Black Women and Work in Colonial Massachusetts,” Journal of African American History (2020): 191–212.


Brattle's diary entries are reprinted in William Newell, The Pastor's Remembrances: A Discourse Delivered Before the First Parish in Cambridge on Sunday, May 27, 1855 (Cambridge, MA: John Bartlett, 1855), 34. The Bradish family lived in Cambridge and Boston and were neighbors of the Brattles. Lucius R. Paige, History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630–1877, with a genealogical Record, accessed October 21, 2020,


Newell, The Pastor's Remembrances, 34.


Newell, The Pastor's Remembrances, 139–41, 152, 174.


Excerpts from William Brattle's Diary in Records of the Church of Christ at Cambridge in New England, 1632–1830, comprising the ministerial records of baptisms, marriages, deaths, admission to covenant and communion, dismissals and church proceedings (Boston: E. Putnam, 1906), 290–93.


Newell, The Pastor's Remembrances, 34.


Eric B. Schultz and Michael J. Tougias, King Philip's War: The History and Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict (1999; repr., New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017), 73.


Rick Kennedy, “William Brattle in A Compendium of Logick,” in Aristotelian and Cartesian Logic at Harvard, ed. Rick Kennedy (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1995), 67:110.


Perry Miller, The New England Mind, From Colony to Province (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953); and Edmund Morgan, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (1963; repr. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985).


Brattle's other published works were An Ephemeris of Celestial Motions … , published in 1682, and Almanack of the Coelestiall Motions, published in 1693. Harvard College used Brattle's Compendium Logicae Secundum principia as a textbook until 1765. John Langdon Sibley, “William Brattle,” in Biographical Sketches of Graduate of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts,1678–1689 (Cambridge, MA: Charles William Sever, University Bookstore, 1885), 3:206--7. For more on Brattle and Leverett's administration of Harvard College during the absentee presidency of Increase Mather, see Rick Alan Kennedy, “Thy Patriarch's Desire: Thomas and William Brattle in Puritan Massachusetts” (PhD. diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1987), 3–6.


Benjamin Colman, A Sermon at the Lecture in Boston, After the Funerals of Those Excellent & Learned Divines and Eminent Fellows of Harvard College The Reverend, Mr. William Brattle … (Boston: Printed by B. Green, for Samuel Gerrish and Daniel Henchman, 1717), 32.


Hardesty, Unfreedom, 2.


Mark Valeri argues that religion and commerce were intertwined in New England and that the visible establishment of churches by such merchant elites was central to the process. Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 20; and Kennedy, “Thy Patriarch's Desire,” 5–6.


Whiting, “Power, Patriarchy, and Provision,” 598.


Cotton Mather's 1706 slave catechism, included in his pamphlet The Negro Christianized, was intended to induce slave masters to baptize their slaves without the worry that Christianization caused emancipation. Such an emphasis highlights that baptism's association with earthly freedom remained concerning enough in the opening decade of the eighteenth century to cause many slaveholders to refrain from baptizing their slaves. Cotton Mather, The Negro Christianized: An Essay to Excite and Assist that Good Work, the Instruction of Negro-Servants in Christianity, ed. Paul Royster (1706; repr., Lincoln: Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln Electronic Texts in American Studies, 2007), 24–26.


Bercovitch, American Jeremiad, 63.


Stephen Paschall Sharples, comp. and ed., Records of the Church of Christ at Cambridge in New England, 1682–1830 (Boston: Eben Putnam, 1906), 59 (hereafter cited as Rec. First Ch. Cambridge).


For Charlestown's role in New England's burgeoning merchant culture, see Bailyn, Merchants in the Seventeenth Century, 96.


For the Lamson family's Atlantic reach, see David R. Mould and Missy Loewe, Historic Gravestone Art of Charleston, South Carolina, 1695–1802 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2006), 30, 35–36, 39, 42, 63–65, 69, 72–73, 209–12. To date I can find no direct evidence of whether the Lamson family employed enslaved labor in their shop, but for an example of an enslaved artisan from Rhode Island, see Hopkins, “Pompe Stevens, Enslaved Artisan,” Common-Place 13 (2013), accessed October 21, 2020, Glenn Knoblock theorizes that enslaved stonecutters might have been employed to carve the markers for black burials. Knoblock, African Amer. Hist. Burial Grounds of NE, 108–9.


Will of William Stitson, April 12, 1688, Middlesex County Probate File, #21376, Massachusetts State Archives, Boston; cf. Warren, New England Bound, 142n84. Case of Francis (aged 35 years) and Fortune (aged 17 years) negros of Edward Collins, June 21, 1670, in Middlesex County, MA: Abstracts of Court Files, 1649–1675,, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003; unpublished abstracts by Thomas Bellows Wyman, “Abstract of Middlesex court files from 1649,” n.d., accessed October 21, 2020, To date I have not been able to locate the court records, but details are given in Edmund Morgan, Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England (1944; repr., New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1966), 129; and Warren, New England Bound, 154n44. John Heyman was chosen by the selectmen to be a tithingman on March 11, 1678. Richard Frothingham, The History of Charlestown, Massachusetts (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), 182.


Marriage of Dan Smiths Negro Mingo and Mr Soley Negro, 1687, in Records of the First Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1632–1789, ed. J.F. Hunnewell (Boston: D. Clapp and Son, 1880), 93.


Sewall, Diary, 1:432–33.


“Two negro maids,” are mentioned as being part of Elizabeth's husband Nathaniel Oliver's estate at his decease. Inventory of Nathaniel Oliver, 1704, in An Account of Some of the Descendants of Capt. Thomas Brattle, ed. Edward-Doubleday Harris (Boston: Printed by D. Clapp and Son, 1867), 12. Mary's husband John Mico's account book lists an enslaved man named Jeffy as “bound from hence unto Barbbados and Lond and so hither at 55£ as appears under [skipper] White's hand 1 May 1703,” Mass. Archives Coll., Colonial Period, 1622–1788.


Saffin's published response to Sewall, A Brief and Candid Answer to a Late Printed sheet, Entitled, The Selling of Joseph, opened with a poem declaring “Cowardly and Cruel are those Blacks Innate/Prone to Revenge, Imp of inveterate hate.” Although Saffin opposed Sewall's call for antislavery, he shared a similar degree of racial unease with blacks. John Saffin, A Brief Candid Answer to a late Printed Sheet, Entiteld the Selling of Joseph (1701) in Against Slavery: An Abolitionist Reader, ed. Mason L. Lowance (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), 17.


Samuel Sewall, The Selling of Joseph, ed. Sidney Kaplan (Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 1969), 10.


“embody | imbody, v.,” OED Online, Oxford University Press, accessed October 21, 2020,


Thomas Brattle, “Letter from Thomas Brattle to an Unnamed Clergyman,” October 8, 1692, in George L. Burr, ed., Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914), 178.


Brattle, Diary, February 11, 1700, Recs. First Ch. Cambridge, 291.


William Brattle, Probate Inventory, 1717.


Samuel Sewall had published a work on eschatology entitled Phænomena quædam apocalyptica ad aspectum novi orbis configurata, or, Some few lines towards a description of the new heaven as it makes to those who stand upon the new earth in 1697 with Bartholomew Green and John Allen, which was sold by Richard Wilkins, the same year that he apprenticed his eldest son Sam to Wilkins in order to learn the bookseller business. Although the elder Sewall published The Selling of Joseph three years later with the same press, he chose to distribute that book privately to a few select friends. Judith S. Graham, Puritan Family Life: The Diary of Samuel Sewall (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000), Table 2: “The ‘Sending Out’ of the Sewall Children,” 146.


Sewall documented the argument with Mather in the margins of his diary on October 20, 1701. Samuel Sewall, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, ed. M. Halsey Thomas (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), 2:43.


Kathryn Koo interprets Mather's agitation for the Christianization of slaves as an early radicalism, an acknowledgement of the belief among puritan divines of the ultimate equality of man before God. I agree with Koo that divines such as Cotton Mather participated in the creation of a puritan theological ethos in regards to enslaved people to emphasize a lasting spiritual condition but assert that it was one of temporal racial inequality. Cotton's use of racial signifiers, his formulation of a different Christian confession for enslaved community members, and his efforts to set up a system of informants among such Christianized Black people to police the enslaved community argue for a racially infused functional separation to Mather's theology. Koo, “Strangers in the House of God,” 157–58.


Diverse colonial Northeasterners linguistically equated “negro” with an insult, a practice followed across language barriers forming a shared regional conceptual language even as social, religious and political divisions abounded. In 1664, during negotiations between Beverwijck (Albany) and New Amsterdam, Jeremias van Rensselaer wrote that the opposing delegation has treated his ideas “als oft het mÿn neeger geseijt had”(as if my negro had said it). In negotiations between Native polities, New France's and New York's diplomatic delegations used such racial language to try to turn Native allies against the other's cause, as in 1699 when an Onondaga man Cohensiowanne was told by the French diplomat Maricour that New York's diplomat Captain Philip Schuyler had disrespected the confederacy by comparing them to “a negro he had with him.” Jeremias to Jan Baptist van Rensselaer, April 25, 1664, Correspondence of Jeremias van Rensselaer, NYSL_sc7079-b05-f15_p2-f16_p1_ncn. DMS ID Number 182693; Letter books of Jeremias van Rensselaer SC7079 Box 5, Folder 15. Van Rensselaer Manor Papers, New York State Library, Albany. Robert Livingston's transcript of conference with French Indians, February 6, 1699, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, ed. E.B. O'Callaghan (Albany, NY: Weed Parsons 1854), 4:495.


Wendy Warren notes that Sewall's arguments against the selling of Africans had no effect on the life choices of his eldest son. In 1714 he placed a slave for sale advertisement in the Boston News Letter which included, “Four or Five likely Negro boys” for sale. Warren, New England Bound, 246n75.


“An Act to prevent Disorders in the Night,” October 27, 1703, in Massachusetts Acts and Resolves, 1703–4, 535–36 (hereafter cited as Acts and Resolves).


“An Act Relating to Molato and Negro Slaves,” May 26, 1703, in MAR, accessed October 21, 2020,


Will of Peter Town, May 20, 1705, in The New England Historical & Genealogical Register and Antiquarian Journal (S.G. Drake, 1866), 20:370–71.


Recs. First Ch. Cambridge, 59.


Scipio's Freedom Petition, December 10, 1719, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1718--1720 (Boston: The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1921) 2:224.


John Mico to Captain Samuel White, Boston, May 1, 1703, Mass. Archives Coll., Col., 1622–1788, vol. 8.


John Mico account book, May 1, 1703,” Mass. Archives Coll., Col., 1622–1788.


Walter K. Watkins, “Boylston Hotel, School Street,” in Bostonian Society Publication (Boston: Old State House, 1916), 1:107–8.


Charles Foy, “Ports of Slavery, Ports of Freedom: How Slaves Used Northern Seaports’ Maritime Industry to Escape and Create Trans-Atlantic Identities, 1713–1783” (PhD diss., Rutgers University, 2008), 72.


Nathaniel Oliver, Inventory, 1704.


William Dillon Piersen. Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-century New England (Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), 97; and Cf, Thomas, “Fit for Town or Country,” 207.


Thomas, “Fit for Town or Country,” 207.


William Brattle, Inventory, 1717, microform no. 2499, Middlesex County Probate Records, Mass. State Archives.


William Brattle, Inventory, 1717.


William Brattle, Inventory, 1717.


William Brattle, Inventory, 1717. For the spatial geography of Northeastern slavery, see Mac Griswold, The Manor: Thee Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), 165; Alexandra A. Chan, Slavery in the Age of Reason: Archaeology at a New England Farm (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2007), 42–45; and Peter Benes, “Slavery in Boston Households, 1647–1770,” in Slavery/Antislavery in New England: The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Proceedings 2003, ed. Peter Benes (Boston: Boston University Press, 2005), 21. Wendy Warren succinctly lays out the gulf between the archival evidence and the historiographical tradition that New England slaves lived in the same house as their master in New England Bound, 316n71.


Baptism of “Seisly. Negro’ Servant of Mrs. J. Mico,” February 7, 1714, in The Manifesto Church: Records of the Church in Brattle Square … 1699–1872, ed. Ellis Loring Motte, et al. (Boston: The Benevolent Fraternity of Churches John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, 1902), 134; and Act for Better Inquiry Into the Ratable Estate of the Respective Towns of This Province, October 29, 1707, State Library of Massachusetts, Boston.


For more on the interpretation of the fifth commandment and its dissemination across the Protestant world, see Anders Ahlbäck, “The Overly Candid Missionary Historian: C.G.A. Oldendorp's Theological Ambivalence over Slavery in the Danish West Indies” in Ports of Globalisation, Places of Creolisation: Nordic Possession, ed. Holger Weiss (Leiden, Neth.: Koninklijke Brill, 2016), 210–11. Samuel Willard provided a theologically similar take on the commandment in A Complete Body of Divinity (Boston: B. Green, S. Kneeland, B. Eliot and D. Henchman, 1726), 597. See also Ulrich, “Vertuous Women Found,” 29; and Bailey, Race and Redemption, 79. For nineteenth-century slave catechisms and the fifth commandment, see Tammy K. Byron “‘A Catechism for Their Special Use’: Slave Catechisms in the Antebellum South” (PhD. diss., University of Arkansas, 2008), 111–14.


William Brattle, Will, 1717: “I give to Elizabeth Hicks thirty Pounds, & to Ruth Hicks I Give Eight pounds & fourty shillings more in petty things besides what my executors shall allow [damaged] of them for Mourning, which I would have to be considered as deep [damaged] & accordingly [illegible] to be made to them. Furthermore of [damaged] Hicks one of my Cows which she pleases & good lot of English Hay [damaged] to her the Bed in the boyes Chamber with ych Red Curtains used therewith [damaged] to her One of my grou Mortars &b a Pestle; by mall bell mettall skillet [damaged] pint-brass skillet, also forty shillings in Petty things as she desires [damaged] I give to said Elizabeth Hicks as a thankful acknowledgement of her great care of me, tenderness toward me and her faithfull service all ye time she has lived with [damaged].”


William Brattle, Will, 1717.


Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Vertuous Women Found.” 20, 35.


Kathryn Koo and Jared Ross Hardesty engaged the influence of enslaved Africans on the emergence of New England Christianity using the mentions of such enslaved people within print culture. Kathryn S. Koo, “Strangers in the House of God: Cotton Mather, Onesimus, and an Experiment in Christian Slaveholding,” American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings 117, part 1 (2007):157–58; and Hardesty, “An Angry God in the Hands of Sinners: Enslaved Africans and the Uses of Protestant Christianity in Pre-Revolutionary Boston,” Slavery & Abolition 35 (2014): 66–83.


Barbara Lambert and M. Sue Ladr, “Civic Announcements: The Role of Drums, Criers and Bells in the Colonies,” in Music in Colonial Massachusetts 1630–1820: Music in Homes and in Churches, ed. Frederick S. Allis, Jr. (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1985), 906.


Benjamin Colman, A devout contemplation on … the early death of pious and lovely children. Preached upon the sudden and lamented death of Mrs. Elizabeth Wainwright. Who departed this life, April the 8th. 1714. Having just compleated the fourteenth year of her age, 1714, accessed October 21, 2020,, Evans Early American Imprint Collection.


Sewall, Diary, 2:677–8.


Jim Downs, “With Only a Trace: Same-Sex Sexual Desire and Violence on Slave Plantations, 1607–1865,” in Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America, ed. Jennifer Brier, et al. (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2016), 30–1.


News, April 21, 1712, Boston News Letter.


Benjamin Colman to Robert Wodrow, June 11, 1723 in “Some Unpublished Letters of Benjamin Colman, 1717–1725,” ed. Niel Caplan, Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings 77 (1965): 131.


Boston News Letter, April 12, 1714, Page [2].


Bordman Family Papers, HUG 1228, Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, MA.


Andrew Bordman's notebook contains Rose's children's births—Jane (1718), Flora (1723), Jeffrey, (1731), Cesar (1733)—as well as the deaths of Jeffrey (December 10, 1739) and Jane (March 11, 1741), HUB 1228, Box 3, seq. 61, Bordman Fam. Papers.


Baptism and covenant profession of “Rose, Negro maid Servant of Mr. A. Bordman,” February 1, 1730, in Rec. First Ch. Cambridge, 126.


Rec. First Ch. Cambridge, 108.


George L. Kittredge, ‘Introduction’ to Increase Mather … and Cotton Mather, Sentiments on the Small Pox Inoculated (Cleveland: Printed for Private Distribution, 1921), 4. For more on this, see Margot Minardi, “The Boston Inoculation Controversy of 1721–1722: An Incident in the History of Race,” WMQ, 61 (2004): 47–76; and Eugenia W. Herbert, “Smallpox Inoculation in Africa,” Journal of African History 16 (1975): 539–59.


William Stanley, “Fear and rebellion in South Carolina: The 1739 Stono Rebellion and Colonial Slave Society” (MA thesis, James Madison University, 2020), 27.


Samuel Francis Batchelder, “Col. Vassall and his Wife Penelope Vassall with some Account of his Slaves,” in Cambridge Historical Society, Proceedings (1915), 10:61–69; and “Henry Vassall House,” Cambridge and the American Revolution, accessed October 21, 2020,


Phillis had been purchased as a child by John Codman of Charlestown and gave testimony in her trial that she had known Robin for a long time. Robin was enslaved to the Vassalls, who were neighbors to William Jr. Abner Cheney Goodell, Jr., The Trial and Execution, for Petit Treason, of Mark and Phillis: Slaves of Capt. John Codman, who Murdered their Master at Charlestown, Mass., in 1755; for which the man was Hanged and Gibbeted, and the woman was Burned to Death … (Cambridge, MA: John Wilson & Son University Press, 1883), 10; and “Case against William Heley & Robin, May 19, 1752,” in Batchelder, “Col. Henry Vassall,” 65–67. A year after Rose's admission to full communion, in 1731, Philicia, a woman enslaved to William Jr., was also admitted to full communion at the First Church in Cambridge. In 1737, Zillah, a woman enslaved by William Jr., joined Philicia as a full church member. Rec. First Ch. Cambridge, 97, 109.


Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, ed. Thomas Robbins (1702; repr., Hartford: S. Andrus and Son, 1853), 2:409.


July 1, 1728 in City Document No. 137, A Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston Containing the Boston Records from 1700 to 1728 (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1883), 224.


When William Brattle Jr.’s daughter was born in 1740 and son in 1742, Andrew Bordman noted the event in the margins, though during the month of Jane's death he makes no annotations. Andrew Bordman Almanac, March 1741, HUG 1228 Box 4, Item 7, seq. 5; Andrew Bordman Almanac, March 31, 1740; Almanac, annotated, 1740, HUG 1228 Box 4, Item 6, seq. 10; Andrew Bordman Almanac, February 28, 1742, HUG 1228 Box 4, Item 8, seq. 4; Bordman Fam. Papers.


Richard L. Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Vintage Books 1992), xii; and T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004), xv.


Batchelder, “Col. Henry Vassall and his Wife Penelope Vassall with some Account of his Slaves,” 61–9; Peter Benes, “Slavery in Boston Households, 1647–1770,” in Slavery/Antislavery in New England, 21; and Joseph McGill, “The Miseducation of a Nation,” The Slave Dwelling Project, accessed October 21, 2020,


Elise Lemire, Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 43.


“Case against William Heley & Robin, May 19, 1752,” in Batchelder, “Col. Henry Vassall,” 65–67.


“Case against William Heley & Robin, May 19, 1752,” in Batchelder, “Col. Henry Vassall,” 65–67.


Lemire, Black Walden, 41–55.


“Case against William Heley & Robin, May 19, 1752,” in Batchelder, “Col. Henry Vassall,” 67.


Jared Hardesty rightly emphasizes that the trial record insinuates that Phoebe was likely sexually abused by Codman. Hardesty, Unfreedom, 68.


Goodell, Jr., The Trial of Mark and Phillis, 7–8.


Goodell, Jr., The Trial of Mark and Phillis, 4–5.


Benjamin Colman, Reliquiae Turellae, et Lachrymae Paternae. The Father's Tears over his Daughter's Remains […] (Boston: Printed by S. Kneeland & T. Green for J. Edwards and H. Foster in Cornhill, 1735), 117.


Goodell, Jr., The Trial of Mark and Phillis, 8–9.


Goodell, Jr., The Trial of Mark and Phillis, 12.


Goodell, Jr., The Trial of Mark and Phillis, 21.


Goodell, Jr., The Trial of Mark and Phillis, 7.


Goodell, Jr., The Trial of Mark and Phillis, 10.


News, Boston Evening Post, September 22, 1733.


John Winthrop, Almanac, September 18, 1755,1714–1779, Papers of John and Hannah Winthrop, 1728–1789, annotated almanac, 1755, HUM 9 Box 4, Vol. 14, Harvard Archives. Text underlined in Winthrop's original notation.


Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, 2:409.


Paul Revere to Jeremy Belknap, c. 1798, 2, Massachusetts Historical Society.


Petition of Cato Hanker, written by William Brattle, in Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions, Massachusetts Archives Collection, v. 78-Military, 1758--1760, SC1/series 45X. Mass. Archives.


Massachusetts Spy, August 1, 1771, 87.


Ebenezer Pemberton and Phillis Wheatley, Heaven the residence of the saints: a sermon occasioned by the … death of the Rev. George Whitefield, … , To which is added, an elegiac poem on his death by Phillis, a Negro girl (Boston: [n.p.], 1771).


Motte, The Manifesto Church, 187.


For Boston King's importance to this history of Canada's Maritimes, see Harvey Amani Whitfield, North to Bondage: Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes (Vancouver, Can.: UBC Press, 2016), 5; and Maya Jasanoff, Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in a Revolutionary World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011), 172.


Peter Bestes and Others, Letter to the Representative of the Town of Thompson, April 20, 1773, in Printed Ephemera Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.


News, Boston Gazette, March 17, 1776.


James Henry Stark, The Loyalists of Massachusetts and the other side of the American Revolution (Boston: W.B. Clark, 1910), 295.


Stark, The Loyalists of Massachusetts, 295.


Providence Gazette, January 13, 1798, Page [3].


Katherine [Brattle] Wendel's Petition to Remain at [Brattle] estate, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petition, V. 237, 56–57, Mass. Archives Coll.; Petition of Katherine Wendell (seq. 1--3), Harvard Archives.