Slaves and Masters

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The Trade, the Triangle

Vast wealth in colonial times was generated by slave labor in the sugar-growing colonies of the Caribbean. First, white settlers enslaved members of a tribe called the Carib. When that approach failed, the settlers imported Indian prisoners-of-war from New England and, eventually, hundreds of thousands of enslaved workers from Africa. In Antigua, where Isaac Royall made his fortune, black workers sometimes died of thirst in times of drought and were subjected to a wide array of tortures. When workers died, more were purchased. From the 1630s until after the American Revolution, family ties and business links connecting New England, the Caribbean and the American South were extensive – and essential. These ties made their own "triangle trade" linking Africa, the West Indies and New England. That great engine of wealth is commemorated today in a WPA mural at the Medford, Ma. post office. The U.S. Post Office made a stamp of the Royall House, also to mark that history.  Boundaries in Colonial times were as much defined by filial and economic ties as they were by lines drawn up by states and nations. There was no North/South divide. Rather, the most powerful divide was that between individuals who lived with freedom and those who did not.

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