Transcript: David Blight and Teanu Reid on the Yale and Slavery Research Project

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David Blight: yeah okay well Hello everybody i’m David blight director of Gilder Lehrman Center for the study of Slavery, [Resistance] and Abolition at Yale and Chair of the working group and the study of Yale and slavery.
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David Blight: One of our primary researchers and our team leader for the 18th century phase of the study is our advanced graduate student to read.
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David Blight: And history and African American studies tiana is an expert on 18th century the 18th century Atlantic Anglo world she’s writing a dissertation still entitled hidden economies and finances in the early Anglo Atlantic world.
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David Blight: Her advisor for his her PhD is a drummer and tiana has been an indispensable part of this project, I must say and.
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David Blight: she’s going to help us understand the kind of archival findings that have come out of this project and highlight some of those particularly on.
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David Blight: The first century of yells history from its founding and 1701 on through the period of the American revolution so Teanu welcome, and thank you for doing this, give us a sense of your word have a few highlights there many possible.
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David Blight: subjects for this, it gives us a sense of a few highlights that have come out so far from your research and the team that you’re leading.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): yeah so um the biggest sort of impact that our team hopes to have on the Ellen cyber research project is really.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): exploring the history of Yale and slavery in the 18th century, so there are a few other sort of smaller pieces related to the university and its connections to slavery.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Slavery but it’s those tend to be more 19th century focused or thinking about the aftermath of the renaming that happened in the 20th century, and our team is really digging in and looking at.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): slave Labor in the building of the College and 18th century donations or their slave holders were donating to the College and really looking at Yale new haven and Connecticut when slavery was still legal in the state.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): That so that’s a big part of it, so one of the things that we found so far are the enslaved people who helped to build Connecticut hall.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Who were owned by President clap and other folks who assisted in the building of the College, but also in the early Labor Additionally, we found.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Regarding the donation, some of the donations are coming from the Connecticut assembly in relation to sugar duties that were from sugar producing plantations in the West Indies that were you know from slave Labor so we’re looking at the different ways that the university.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): directly and a little bit more indirectly benefited from slave.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Labor in its very early days when it was not the giant university, it was very much a small college.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): In New haven.
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David Blight: Well that’s a great start and and I know what lies beneath a lot of that.
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David Blight: Now we do know that perhaps as much as one third of the laborers who did all the work to build Connecticut Hall, which of course is still there and freshman quiets oldest work structure in Connecticut.
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David Blight: wasn’t that unusual for.
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David Blight: These early 18th century colonial British American men to own one or more slaves that you mentioned the President clap the first official President of view on the slave as well.
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David Blight: wasn’t that uncommon or relatively common.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): So, as far as Connecticut goes slavery wasn’t the like big expansive plantation slavery that we’re familiar most many people are familiar with the South.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): But wealthy people in Connecticut many of them owned one or two slaves, a few enslaved people and in the earlier 17th century period those might have been.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): enslaved indigenous people he clots and other natives from the area and then, as you move into the 18th century, you have more enslaved Africans and some people like as we’re spells you know owned enslaved in enslaved indigenous person, and so you do see in the early days of Yale that.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Jonathan edwards etc like a lot of the early Yale people whether they are the administrators or the students, there is quite a bit of slave ownership of you wondering or two.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Typically, or you know smaller than several hundreds not big plantation slavery, but there are there is a prevalence of enslaved ownership amongst earlier folk.
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David Blight: Now you’re an expert on the economy and the economic development of this mercantile Atlantic world and by the 18th century it turns out.
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David Blight: Well yeah i’ll obviously existed here in new haven Connecticut capital of colonial Connecticut at that point and, of course, a big harbor out there.
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David Blight: One of the things that we’re finding and i’d love to hear you elaborate a little bit on that is that new haven, and therefore you sat Amidst this.
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David Blight: very robust train between new haven Connecticut, for that matter, all of new england’s ports and the West Indies, especially Barbados, a major sugar growing.
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David Blight: You know, capital of the slave society of the Caribbean, give us a sense of that or maybe a little sense of the scale that because he doesn’t exist in any vacuum it exists part of this British imperial system.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): yeah so one year, especially in the early days is benefiting from a lot of favoritism, if you will, from the colonial Assembly, and so it is getting.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): A lot of the donations from taxes from assembly legislators to you know pay give the university money for buildings for.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): For books for tools for whatever, and so the I mentioned that there are taxes levied on sugar and rum and molasses that go towards.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): paying for the early development of the College, but also new haven, is sending.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): You know, fish and cod and materials to the West Indies, there is that exchange between them and places like Barbados.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): there’s also the history of sending the some of the enslaved native peoples to Barbados and to the West Indies, so that trade exists and then.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Also, some enslaved Africans come up to new haven into New England through that, so there is that exchange in that commerce that’s going on.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): And it is an important part of the economy of New England so such that.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): While it’s not a plantation space and it’s not the sort of big cotton plantations that people are familiar with it new England is very much benefiting from slavery.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): there’s a lot of commerce, that is related to the slave trade, the exchange of enslaved peoples and so there’s a lot of money being made, and then there is the Labor of those people once they arrive in whatever destination that contributes further to the economy of each respective places.
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David Blight: Now we’re doing this all too short interview here for a website, I mean you, and I could talk all afternoon about this, as we have before but but one last question, would you.
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David Blight: just pick something I mean of all the research, you and your little team have done.
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David Blight: What would be a highlight document or two or or just some sense of the kind of sources that you’ve been relying on here in the library system to build this story of yale’s relationships with slave Labor with with African slaves with indigenous slaves.
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David Blight: What are some of the sources that you’ve actually used to get at this story.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): yeah so as far as the records and papers of town this clap within their we found some more details about the enslaved people who.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): built the university and then also we found runaway slave ads related to those people, and one of the things that we really hope to show through.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): probate records and the documents we found really hope to add names to the enslaved people we really hope to be able to say.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): who built the university, not just in terms of the big Professor President, etc, like those great white men, but also the actual Labor of the College, who actually nailed things.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): and add them to that part of the story, because they were vital and very important and then also thinking about the relationship that develops between yell and its position on slavery and anti slavery, a bit later in the century.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Working with the sermons or the publications of different yalies who either spoke out against the slave trade or.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): didn’t condemn slavery and didn’t you know see it as a great evil so working with sort of those two sets of documents to really see the sort of.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Physical building of the College, but then also, on the other side, seeing how yalies went into the world to then affect the greater state and country eventually once after the revolution, but you know how they affected that.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): Larger dialogue.
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Teanu Reid (she/her/hers): On slavery and anti slavery in the bigger picture.
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David Blight: Well that’s great and I have to say I mean your approach to this research.
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David Blight: has really helped us achieve already I think one of the goals of this, which is to first understand what what worlds detail existence, you know when it was founded in 17 one we’re also digging into who Elio was.
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David Blight: In fact, particularly over the British Museum we’re doing that, but it’s to understand this 18th century work with this colonial imperial world.
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David Blight: And this kind of raw somewhat frontier society that still existed here at the beginning of the 18th century.
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David Blight: Anyway, but it is amazing, as you well know how you know fairly obscure documents.
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David Blight: and great libraries like this can can help you begin to piece that together, and then, as you say later on in the central we get a kind of an intellectual, cultural history problem of you know.
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David Blight: yields great thinkers like edwards What are they doing a bus like what turns out Jonathan edwards own one or two slaves through most of his adult life.
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David Blight: So anyway hey Teanu I want to thank you, this is all too short, I must say, as part of this
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David Blight: tape we’re doing Teanu was already made a number of presentations to our working group about this and is about to make another one in the coming week.
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David Blight: But we just wanted to illustrate a little bit about the first team, we have.
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David Blight: Studying the 18th century and tiana it’s all been about your leadership, and I should also say you are also going to be the teaching fellow this fall and, of course.
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David Blight: taught by add robyn Marie and crystal feemster on email and slavery, so a lot of students undergraduates are going to benefit as well from your teaching, but thanks tiana for taking the time to do this and.
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David Blight: Much more to come.