Juneteenth: 7 milestones in the struggle to abolish slavery

Vermont abolishes slavery – 1777

The state flag of Vermont.
The state flag of Vermont. | Public Domain

As the British colonies in North America struggled for independence, the colony of Vermont became the first of the future states to pass a law banning slavery.

A product of influence from Quaker-led abolition groups, the measure specifically prohibited the enslavement of men who reached the age of 21 and women who reached the age of 18.

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According to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, despite the positive step, blacks living in Vermont were still frequently the target of discrimination.

“While Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut abolitionists achieved laudable goals, each state created legal strictures making it difficult for ‘free’ blacks to find work, own property or even remain in the state,” noted the NMAAHC.

“Vermont's July 1777 declaration was not entirely altruistic either. While it did set an independent tone from the 13 colonies, the declaration's wording was vague enough to let Vermont's already-established slavery practices continue.”

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