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Naomi, Slave of T. Dwight

Click for a full view of Dwight's receipt

Timothy Dwight purchased a slave in 1788. A manuscript in Yale's collection of the Dwight family papers, dated 1788 and signed "Timothy Dwight," says:

This certifies that the conditions on which I bought Naomi, a negro woman formerly belonging to Deacon Daniel Andrews of Norfield, that she shall work for me and mine until she shall have refunded the money which I am to pay for her, at the rate of seven pounds sixteen shillings per year, and that she shall uniformly behave well, faithfully, and truly towards me and mine, and that she shall also be at the expense of the cloaths she wants during her service with me, and live with me and mine until she shall, at the same rate of hire, have discharged the expense arising from the same. In which case I voluntarily bind myself my heirs and my executors and my administrators, and I release her from all obligations to serve me (as I never intended her for a slave) any further time. In case she does not faithfully fulfill the above conditions, then this instrument is to be void and of none effect. Witness my hand this fourth of March, 1788, Signed in the presence of Maurice W. Dwight, A. Burr [Signed Timothy Dwight] (68)
Click here to see the original manuscript

Dwight purchased Naomi in 1788, four years after Connecticut passed its gradual emancipation law. Because Naomi was born prior to 1784, however, she was not a "statutory slave" but a permanent slave, pending her master's decision to liberate her. Dwight's statement "I never intended her for a slave" means that he intended to allow her to buy her own freedom with her time of servitude. This is not a manumission document, however; Dwight owned Naomi as a slave and reserved the right to keep her if she failed to "behave well, faithfully, and truly toward me and mine."

We do not know the purchase price that Timothy Dwight paid for Naomi, nor do we know whether Naomi had successfully purchased her own freedom seven years later, when Dwight was inaugurated as the President of Yale College, in 1795. (69)

We do know that Dwight published poems and sermons defending American slavery but condemning European slavery.

Many years earlier, Timothy Dwight had sold off some slaves while helping to execute the will of Jonathan Edwards.






Dwight's impact on Yale college

Naomi, slave of T. Dwight

Dwight's Published Views


Numbers in parentheses refer to notes. See the notes page.