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Coverture is a legal principal that dates back to the Middle Ages and comes from a French term meaning “covered.” Imported to the American colonies as part of English common law, coverture had a significant impact on women’s lives.


Conditional Manumission

These court cases reveal how enslaved Black people in Virginia sought freedom in the courts after the colonial government made manumitting enslaved people the responsibility of the government.


Runaway Slaves

This advertisement about a runaway enslaved woman contains fascinating clues about her life.


The Business of Slavery

These pages from the log book of the Sloop Rhode Island starkly demonstrate the treatment of enslaved people during the Middle Passage.


The Rapalje Children

This portrait of an affluent colonial family illustrates the different expectations of boys and girls in the eighteenth century.


Abolition and Revolution

This poem by Phillis Wheatley demonstrates how enslaved and free Black people saw the American Revolution as an opportunity to end the systematic oppression of Black people in the colonies.