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Black Election Day in New England

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  • Dr Reality
    http://www.afroamhistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa090301a.htm Black Election Day in 18th Century New England In New England, election day was not just a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 11, 2002

      Black Election Day in 18th Century New England

      In New England, election day was not just a special day to white citizens,
      but to the slave population as well. Depending on the location within New
      England, slaves in the mid-18th century elected their own governors and
      kings. While the position of governor or king did not entitle them to
      official power, it gave the winner status among slaves.

      The first elections of black kings and governors began in the early 18th
      century in New England capital cities and charter colonies. Elections were
      held in Newport, Rhode Island in 1756, in Hartford, Connecticut in 1766, and
      by the 1770s, in Norwich, Connecticut and Salem, Massachusetts. By the end
      of the 18th century, similar elections took place in Portsmouth, New
      Hampshire and in Danvers, Lynn, and North Bridgewater in Massachusetts.
      Black elections took place over the course of a week and occurred at the
      same time as white elections.

      The title of king or governor depended upon whether a slave lived in a
      colony or royal colony. In colonies where whites chose their own governors,
      such as Connecticut and Rhode Island, elected black officials were called
      governors. In royal colonies, such as New Hampshire, where whites governors
      were appointed, black elected officials were called kings.

      Food, activities, socializing, lobbying, and clothing were important to the
      celebration. Most slaves borrowed clothing from their masters and
      mistresses. The most popular attire were uniforms because they were
      considered dignified. A slave master was also aware of the importance of
      his slave's attire. Slaves had the same status as their master, so a poorly
      dressed slave was a reflection on the master. Therefore, masters did not
      hesitate to provide appropriate attire.

      Election day activities were also central to the celebration. They were a
      combination of African American and Euro-American traditions. For instance,
      from white traditions came pitching pennies and quoits and from black
      traditions came wrestling, stick fighting, and dancing. Other activities
      common to both cultures were running races and jumping activities.

      Like in white elections, only men were allowed to vote, but women lobbied
      for the candidate they supported. Candidates also lobbied on their own
      behalf. Voting differed depending on the location. Some used voice vote,
      while in other places, voters stood in line behind the candidate they
      supported. After the results were tallied, candidates were honored in an
      inaugural parade. Gunfire and music accompanied participants as they
      marched to the post-election party. The parade ended at the home of the
      master of the slave governor or king. Slaves then enjoyed the
      post-election celebration given by the winner's master. The master of the
      elected official provided the food, alcohol, and decorations for the
      celebration. The festivities included dancing, drinking, and socializing.

      While the black governor or king did not have official power, whites
      supported black elections. Whites thought that the elections were amusing
      but not a threat. It was also beneficial to them because they wanted to use
      black governors and kings as enforcers of social propriety. But for slaves,
      it was a time to freely socialize and take part in the festivities. And for
      the newly elected official, he was able to enjoy the status of his position
      as king or governor.

      Recommended reading:

      Piersen, William D., Black Yankees, (University of Massachusetts Press,

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