The Final Sale of Slaves

June 19, 2020

On March 8, 1825, the New Haven Green was the site of the final sale of enslaved people in New Haven and arguably the state of Connecticut. They were sold to a local abolitionist named Anthony P. Sanford who for the price of $10 acquired Lois and Lucy Tritton, and immediately upon purchase set them free. It was a sale conducted by the local sheriff at the old sign post that stood on the corner of Chapel and Church Streets. Sheriffs oversaw the sale of enslaved people and other chattels for the purpose of fair market pricing. The emancipation of Lois and her daughter Lucy was a bold statement in New Haven where the policy of gradual emancipation meant that enslaved people were not ultimately free until the year 1848.

Enslaved Africans dated back in New Haven to the founding of the colony in 1638. Theophilus Eaton, the New Haven Colony’s first governor brought enslaved people with him and his family to the New World. As the Nine Squares were initially laid out, these were subjugated servants in a hopeful (and entirely patriarchal) Puritan utopia that was established as a raw outpost on the edge of the known world.

Following the American Revolution in 1784, the newly christened state of Connecticut passed the Gradual Abolition Act. This law emancipated any enslaved person born into captivity after that year once they hit the ages of 25 for men and 21 for women. The idea being that gradually all enslaved people would be free based on generational liberation. The practice of slavery would just age out and the white population wouldn’t have to be as concerned with disrupting the status quo. Viewed today this is in the very least an ironic stance, considering these same men had just finished fighting a revolution for their own freedom.

  

By 1800, New Haven had an African American population of approximately 220 people with 60 of whom were still enslaved. Life was still not easy for the freed Blacks. The gentry of New Haven viewed them as a lower working-class group and while they were openly discriminated against, they were also allowed their own institutions and small communities on the fringe of the city’s lines of settlement.

Lois and Lucy’s sale on the Green and emancipation was a step forward towards full emancipation and equality. Six years later there would be backlash against the abolitionists and free Black communities as attempts to establish a Black college in New Haven became controversial and failed. The local abolitionist movement burst on to the national stage with the Amistad trials of 1840-41. In 1848 the practice of slavery was completely abolished in Connecticut. The state had been slow to move and was the last of the Northeast states to abolish the practice in total.

   

Lois Tritton went on to live a long life. Known locally as “Aunt Lois,” she was a lifelong member of Trinity Church on the Green and helped to found St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Whalley Ave. She married twice after her emancipation and her son Henry F. Tritton was a successful and well known barber. Lois passed away on June 11, 1894.

Jason Bischoff-Wurstle
Director of Photo Archives, New Haven Museum

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