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Researching a longstanding grievance

Melvin B. Miller
Researching a longstanding grievance
“I hope they find a remedy for those whose ancestors were enslaved.”

The recently appointed members of the Boston Reparations Task Force now have the report commissioned by the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (UUUM) to guide their inquiry on slavery in colonial Roxbury. The First Church of Roxbury was established in 1631. The Unitarians have become responsible for the records and renovation of the First Church since 1976.

Aabid Allibhai, a Harvard scholar, has conducted a research project to determine the history of race and enslavement of people associated with the First Church of Roxbury in Colonial times. The 50-page report found that from 1631 to 1775, a period of 144 years, researchers could identify only 58 slaves, some of whom were Native Americans.

All of the slavery occurred when Massachusetts and Boston were part of the British colonial government. The state of Massachusetts outlawed slavery in 1783. Clearly, from the time that Massachusetts was granted statehood to United States of America in 1788, there has been no legal slavery in Boston.

Nonetheless, there may be some Boston residents who are descendants of slaves who were here before 1776. The mayor’s ordinance directs members of the Reparations Task Force to assess Boston’s attempts to repair harm done by slavery, apparently regardless of what state or city is responsible for the afflictions.

As soon as Massachusetts became free of British autocracy, the state government ruled that slavery violated Massachusetts’ constitutional rights. This occurred in 1783, 82 years before ratification of the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that outlawed slavery everywhere. Citizens of Boston should be applauded and not insulted by the City Council.