Dutch-Speaking Runaway Slaves in New York and New Jersey, 1730–1825

The history of runaway slaves in America has suffered from both chronological and geographical limitations. Even in the best modern works on the topic, runaway slavery is treated as a mostly nineteenth-century phenomenon, with slaves fleeing the slave South to reach the free states of the North.1 The relative availability of source material must explain a significant part of these conceptual biases. There is simply much greater recordkeeping and many more printed sources regarding slavery that have survived from the antebellum than from the colonial period and early republic. And, of course, by the 1830s, slavery had mostly faded out north of the Mason–Dixon Line. Later, after decades of abolitionism and years of war, it was easy for Americans to forget that there were once slaves in the North, let alone runaway slaves that came from Northern slaveholders.