Emerging from the Shadows, 1775-1819:
The Black Governors

In a previous section, there were discussed the petitions of liberty, which suggests that white insitutions might possibly be used to better the condition of Blacks as a whole. This incipient political development was probably why in the course of the eighteenth century the ruling class began to realize that individual relations of dominance were insufficient, and there was need of some way to control Black communities as a whole. This was achieved, as is so often the case, by coopting individuals from the Black communities to act as mediators. These individuals, who were raised from the Black communities to help whites maintain control over them, were the "Black Governors."

The office of Black Governor originated in Massachusetts and then appeared in Connecticut and Rhode Island. These officials served as mediators between the white establishment and the communities of Blacks. As such they could appear in ceremonies as heads of their communties, or carry out various judicial and religious functions. While they might be elected, this does not imply they were agents of the Blacks who elected them, but only that they commanded enough respect to be heeded. In white society as well, politics was dominated by local notables whose basic function was social control in the interest of the ruling class.

Some Black Governors had assistants and sheriffs, which shows that they had substantial responsibilities and were not merely figureheads. Shown is a reproduction of a painting by H. P. Arms c. 1905, from a Connecticut Magazine article, "The Building of Model Municipality," Vol. IX, no. 3. It shows a "Parade of the 'Black Governors' in Hartford." The picture does not show the Governors in a very sympathetic light, but their function in early Hartford, after all, was to hand out severe and summary punishment to slaves who had violated the law, and this probably did not make them much loved in the Black community.

Here is a table of known Black Governors, and it probably indicates roughly the relative size of Connecticut's Black communites. If so, Hartford's would seem to have been the largest. The last Black Governer in Hartford that we know of is the same Boston we encountered before.

Name Location Approximate date
Quash Freeman Derby 1810
Tobias Derby 1815
Roswell Quash (Freeman?) Derby 1830-1835
Eben Tobias Derby 1840-1845
Caesar Durham 1800
Peter Freeman Farmington 1780
London Hartford 1755
Quaw Hartford 1760
Cuff Hartford 1766-1776
John Anderson Hartford 1776
Peleg Nott Hartford 1780
Boston Hartford 1800
William Lanson New Haven 1825
Quash Piere New Haven 1832
Thomas Johnson New Haven 1833-1837
Boston Trowtrow Norwich 1770
Sam Huntington Norwich 1772-1800
Jubal Weston Seymour 1825
Nelson Weston Seymour 1850
Wilson Weston Seymour 1855
London Wethersfield 1760
Cuff Woodbridge 1840

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