Fri 17 Mar 2017
I thought it was fairly well known that Eph and other prominent Williams family members, including founding trustee Elijah Williams, owned and traded slaves. Eph left brothers Elijah and Josiah his slaves in his will, the founding document of the college.
A considerable source of Williams family wealth, including Eph’s, in Berkshire County was in land that they had systematically cheated Stockbridge Indians out of.
Amos Lawrence, the most important early benefactor to the college, made his fortune in cotton–therefore on slave labor– before the Civil War. Late in life he supported forced resettlement of enslaved African Americans to Africa as a way to solve the slavery issue. His name graces Lawrence Hall, now WCMA.
[H]ere’s a heartbreaking document of indenture binding a 6-year old girl to Elijah Williams without any consent. If she lived to 18 out in the wilds of Berkshire County, she got some clothes. But she would have been free, unlike Elijah’s black slaves.
Slavery and an active program of displacing indigenous people aside, the Williams family were in large part Loyalist. There’s no indication at all that, had he lived, Eph would have fought for the Continental Army.
Tell us more about this history!
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