Slavery and the Republic

Slavery was the major political, social, and moral question of Martin Van Buren’s generation, and his relationship with the institution was incredibly complicated. Van Buren’s political connections to slavery, and the lives of enslaved people who lived, worked, and visited Lindenwald, are stories integral to our understanding of the site.

 
Drawing of a group of enslaved people in chains being driven through the streets

Library of Congress

Martin Van Buren and the Politics of Slavery


Van Buren not only grew up amongst enslaved people but alongside six held by his parents. This early exposure to the institution of slavery later provided him with an understanding of southern politics that differed from northern colleagues raised without similar experiences. It was an understanding Martin Van Buren seemed to exploit for professional success, but also an understanding he struggled with as the country began to split over the fate and expansion of slavery.




 
Oil painting of a man standing in simple dress against a natural backdrop

New Haven Museum

Self-Emancipation


Throughout the history of the United States, enslaved individuals took an active role in their own emancipation. Learn more about some various means through which people sought freedom.

 
Black and white image of Martin Van Buren as an older man

Library of Congress

Martin Van Buren, Compromise, and Privilege


The United States is a nation is built on compromise, and the antebellum period saw more than its fair share of compromises. At the core of these deals was often the preservation and expansion of the institution of slavery.

Last updated: September 28, 2020

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Martin Van Buren NHS
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