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Virtual – Before Abolition: Quakers and Slavery in the 1700s

Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm


A History Happy Hour that explores how Quakers were both early abolitionists and slaveholders.

By 1830 many Quakers were active abolitionists. They formed anti-slavery societies, lobbied legislatures, and helped formerly enslaved people establish new lives. But that was not always the case. Before 1780, many Quakers throughout the American colonies enslaved Africans to work in their households, farms, and shops. Many Quaker merchants engaged in a vigorous trade with the slave-worked West Indies sugar plantations. Some participated in the slave trade.  This program looks at the apparent contradiction of Quakers being both prominent slaveholders and founders of the abolition campaign in Great Britain.  How did the Quaker community’s values shift from “It’s OK to enslave people as long as you treat them well” to understanding slavery for the abomination that it was?

Elizabeth Cazden, an active Quaker and former lawyer, is an independent historian based in Providence, Rhode Island. She holds degrees from Oberlin College, Harvard Law School, and Andover Newton Theological School, and has written for scholarly journals, Cobblestone, Harvard Magazine, and Rhode Island Roots. She is currently researching Quakers and slavery in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts from 1660 to 1785.  At least one slave-holding ancestor, Richard Borden (d. 1671), is part of her work.  Read her recent publication, “When Quakers were the Karens.”

Guest moderator will be Sandy Spring resident, Joy Turner.  Ms. Turner is a native of Sandy Spring, Maryland, and a descendant of the Howard/Holland Family, one of the notable African-American founding families in the community. She is a historic consultant and educator who holds degrees from the University of Central Oklahoma and Butler University.

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