The Decline of Slavery in Bristol

By Catherine W. Zipf, The Bristol Historical & Preservation Society

In 1825, the over-leveraged George DeWolf went bankrupt. His sugar crop had failed, preventing him from repaying loans to creditors around the world. During a December snowstorm, he and his family took what they could carry and traveled to George’s plantation in Cuba, called “Noah’s Ark”. George’s substantial debts caused a cascade of defaults around town and led to a years-long depression. Even the DeWolfs struggled through the next few decades.

George DeWolf’s bankruptcy heralded the end of the era of enslavement in Bristol; the 1820 census is the last to document any enslaved people in Bristol. But, things were far from equal for people of color. By 1830, Bristol’s African-American and Indigenous community, consisting of the descendants of enslaved people owned by families like the DeWolfs and Munros, had found a home in New Goree, located on Wood Street between State Street and Bay View Avenue. Many continued to work in the homes of Bristol’s elite families in relationships that paralleled the era of enslavement. Others found work in the developing rubber industry. With new opportunities generated during the post-Civil War climate, many of Bristol’s African-American families began to move elsewhere. By 1920, with only a handful of such families remaining, Bristol had largely forgotten this important part of its history.

One

Sign up for the
RISHM Newsletter

Medallions

Contact Us

Donate

Membership

Store

The Maria Hazard House (left) in the New Goree neighborhood of Bristol, RI. Courtesy Catherine W. Zipf.

The Maria Hazard House (left) in the New Goree neighborhood of Bristol, RI. Courtesy Catherine W. Zipf.