This primary source packet includes advertisements from the New Hampshire Gazette, a petition to the NH Legislature written by enslaved people, and the 1790 census.

Historical Background

There were African enslaved people living in New Hampshire as early as 1645. Many lived near the busy ports of the seacoast.  Newspaper advertisements list both inbound and outbound ships from the West Indies, advertisements for West Indies goods and enslaved people, as well as notices for runaways. Slavery was not formally outlawed in New Hampshire until the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Students can find enslaved people in the United States censuses (1790, 1800, 1830, and 1840). 

It is important for students to realize that slavery was present in the North and that most village stores were connected to the West Indies trade. An important document in NH history is the 1779 Freedom Petition submitted by enslaved people to the NH Legislature. Students must see examples of enslaved people taking a stand and engaging in political resistance. Ona Judge, an African American woman enslaved by George Washington’s family, is another example of someone who takes a stand and emancipates herself by escaping to Portsmouth, NH. What ensues reveals more about attitudes toward slavery in New Hampshire. In addition to the political resistance and resistance through emancipating oneself, it is important to remember that enslaved people resisted every day in small, but significant ways.

Enduring Understandings

  • Slavery existed in the North and was central to the development and growth of the northern economies.
  • Slavery shaped the beliefs of Northerners about race and whiteness even as they worked as allies to people of color.
  • Enslaved people were human beings with inspirations, dreams, fears, and families. They resisted their enslavement in small and large ways


Provide students with newspaper clippings (found in the Primary Sources tab), leaving off the source citations. If students are unfamiliar with primary sources, look at one newspaper clipping together first. Ask them to do a close read, gathering details, and guess where the newspaper might be from based on what they know of American history. Then reveal the source citations and discuss. Look closely at the advertisements and consider the people mentioned. Ask students why a runaway ad might be evidence of resistance.

Access the film, Shadows Fall North

Examine the 1790 census for New Hampshire. Review each column. What do students think “all other free persons” means? Who might that include? How many communities reported the presence of enslaved people? If your students live in NH, they could look for their own town or neighboring town to gather information.   How are these people remembered in their own communities? How should they be remembered and could students take up the challenge of proposing a way to remember and honor their lives?


Examine the 1779 Freedom Petition submitted by enslaved people to the NH Legislature. Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) has a set of discussion questions and answers. Examine this set of quotes pulled from the 1779 petition. This petition is important to combine with the other primary sources in order for students to see enslaved people taking a stand and engaging in political resistance.

Picture Book Pairing: The Escape of Oney Judge

NH Gazette, 1758: Likely Negro Boys and Girls 

NH Gazette, 1759: Imported by Robert Traill

NH Gazette, 1757: To be sold, has been two years in this country

NH 1790 Census

NH Gazette, 1764: Servant/Slave Curfew Notice, Portsmouth

NH Gazette, 1764: Runaway Ad

1779 Freedom Petition submitted by enslaved people to the NH Legislature

Runaway Ad: Oney Judge: Pennsylvania Gazette,1796

Links to Related Websites

New England and the African Slave Trade

Slavery in the North: New Hampshire

Shadows Fall North (film and discussion guide)

Traces of the Trade (documentary)

A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie

Digital Memorial to the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Ona Judge (story and discussion guide from Mount Vernon)

Books for Adults

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Anne Farrow, Joel Lange, and Jenifer Frank. Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery. Written by journalists, this book is a relatively quick read.

Books for Young Students

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Readers Edition 

Emily Arnold McCully, The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom; picture book

Download Primary Source Packet