Slavery and Freedom

The history of Salem Maritime National Historic Site is deeply tied to the slavery and freedom of people of African descent. The work of recovering this history is a collective process. Four threads that have emerged from examining this history are: (1) Salem’s role in the global and local economy of slavery, (2) the life, love, and labor of enslaved and freed people, (3) Black resistance, liberation, and the struggle for equality, and (4) the end of slavery which left many people in an ambiguous state between enslaved and freed.

Watch this 8-minute video to learn how staff of Salem Maritime engaged with the community, students, academic and independent scholars, activists, and educators to understand and share this critical history. This page is a work in progress and will continue to evolve as additional resources are developed.

Two people speak to one another looking at a paper.
Exploring Hard History

This film documents the collective journey of national park staff and their local community to recover and share its history of slavery.

A old map of Massachusetts
Emancipation in Massachusetts

Watch this short video to learn about the ambiguous end of slavery.

Tween deck aboard the replica tall ship FRIENDSHIP OF SALEM.
Maritime Economy of Slavery

The links between Salem’s economic and social fabric and slavery are extensive.

A handwritten in cursive yellowed paper receipt.
Unfree People of Salem

Watch a video and read an article seeking to tell the story of Rose (Lane) Derby.

A person wearing a gray shirt and tan hat speaks to a student while holding a picture.
Teaching Hard History

Salem Maritime’s education program engages students and teachers with this history.

A yellowed newspaper article with the words African Society at the top.
Black Activism

During every moment of Salem’s history, Black residents have actively resisted oppression.

Woman and dog on a leash face away from the camera in front of a brick house.
Self-guided Walking Tour

Explore this history at the site using our audio tour, "The Business of Slavery."


Last updated: August 24, 2022

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160 Derby Street
Salem, MA 01970



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