Black Governors in Connecticut

[Black residents]  had their own, parallel governments in Connecticut for almost 100 years, beginning around the mid-18th century.

…The tradition began about 1750, when white Colonists believed it was a pragmatic way to handle the slaves and keep them in line. In later years, they also wanted to train African Americans to govern themselves and handle disputes.

Initially, the first black governors were either leaders of their African tribes or the slaves of wealthy officials. They were chosen in bona fide elections.

…Some black governors were chosen for having a master who was governor.

…Some of the black governors descended from African nobility. 

…Some of the governors were elected by black people from throughout the state, and some were elected for their town or area.

…Eventually, the race for the black governor’s job became elaborate, with an election held a week after the white election in the spring. Qualifications to vote for blacks included owning a pig and a sty. Black women were banned from voting, as white women were from the white men’s elections.

After the vote by hand or by acclamation, the black governor came out often dressed with a military uniform and with a sword, riding a horse in a long parade that included his government. His master paid for the celebration.

…There were other black officials in New England — including five governors in Rhode Island and black kings in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. But, Connecticut had the most and longest run of black governors.

…In Connecticut, the black governor shared responsibility with a lieutenant governor, magistrates and justices of the peace and sheriffs who helped administer and enforce the law.



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