Black Activism

Knowing the history of African Americans in Salem is central to understanding all aspects of life in the city from the seventeenth century up to now. During every moment of Salem’s history, Black residents have resisted the violence, discrimination, and oppression that impacted their lives. This resistance took a variety of forms including fighting against inequities.
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5 minutes, 37 seconds

How did different groups of people shape the American Revolution and events leading up to it? This film uses primary source documents to explore the stories of two men - a Salem colonist, Richard Derby, and an enslaved man, Obed.

Salem's African Society

A yellowed 1806 newspaper article with the title African Society at the top.

NPS Photo / Maryann Zujewski / Courtesy of the Museum of Printing

The newspaper advertisement to the left was chosen as the thumbnail image for this section on "Slavery and Freedom" to highlight Black activism. Sabe Derby was part of the first generation of freed Black people in Salem and a member of an early Black benevolent society - the Sons of the African Society. The society brought members of the free Black community together with the mission of supporting one another during the challenging transition from slavery to freedom.

Black and white scan of 18th century newspaper
Women and Self-emancipation

Long before 1776, enslaved women fought for their freedom in everyday and revolutionary ways.

Text handwritten in cursive with ink on yellowed paper.
Return to Slavery and Freedom

Explore a series of articles and primary source documents related to slavery and freedom in Salem.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Last updated: March 23, 2023