Posted: January 21, 2010
By Magdalena Georgieva '10
It is not commonly known that the money that led to the founding of Harvard Law School came from the slave trade industry. Nor are most people aware that colonial New England imported more than 10,000 slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. Visiting senior lecturer in English and journalist Catherine S. Manegold revisited these truths with her new book, Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North.
Praised as “a feat of historical excavation” by Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Ten Hills Farm traces the story of five generations of slave owners who successively inhabited a 600-acre estate north of Boston. For 150 years, the estate was passed through generations involved in slave trade, including merchants John Usher and Isaac Royall. Slaves lived and worked on Ten Hills Farm, and slavery remained ubiquitous in Massachusetts until the 1780s, when the state abolished the practice.
“Manegold conveys a lively depiction of New England's social, cultural, and political history peppered with jolting reminders that what may have been forgotten, nevertheless remains,” wrote Publisher’s Weekly in its review of Ten Hills Farm. To draw such a comprehensive picture, Manegold delved deeply into primary sources, such as letters, journal entries, shipping records, and estate inventories.
The first owner of the Ten Hills Farm was the Puritan John Winthrop. After he became the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, Winthrop helped to pass the 1641 Massachusetts Body of Liberties condoning slavery. Slaves were imported on trading ships along with sugar, wine, and tobacco.
“The only thing that mattered was how the winds blew, what the market would bear, and how much those ships could carry,” wrote Manegold in her book.
After Winthrop’s death, his eldest son inherited the estate, and Ten Hills Farm would be passed along to other family members, then other families; all were involved in slave ownership. All that is left of the estate now, Manegold found, are the Royall House and slave quarters, located at 15 George Street in Medford, Massachusetts.
This precise and detailed reporting also marked Manegold's work as a correspondent for the New York Times, Newsweek, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. After leaving the Times in 1999, Manegold focused on longer works of historical research. In 2000, she authored In Glory’s Shadow: The Citadel, Shannon Faulkner, and a Changing America, a book that explores the history of a Southern military institution and a woman's penetration in a previously all-male bastion. When not working on long research projects, Manegold teaches narrative writing and journalism ethics at Mount Holyoke.