A Guide to Sites, Museums, and Memory

Royall House and Slave Quarters Medford, Massachusetts, United States

The Royall House and Slave Quarters was founded in 1906 to protect an endangered historic mansion in Medford, Massachusetts, and to ensure its long-term preservation. During the organization’s first century, programming emphasized the American Revolution and the family of Isaac Royall Jr., a Loyalist in that war, who occupied the property from 1732-1775. Over the past two decades we have expanded our interpretive focus to incorporate the stories of enslaved Africans who lived with and worked for the Royall family.

The property includes the only remaining freestanding slave quarters in New England, located in close proximity to an eighteenth-century mansion furnished to interpret the side-by-side living spaces of the Royalls and those they enslaved. Archaeological artifacts unearthed on the grounds, exhibited on site, offer compelling material evidence of these two resident groups’ intertwined lives. More than 60 men, women, and children were held in bondage on the property during the Royalls’ tenure.

Among them was Belinda, enslaved for fifty years by the Royalls, who in 1783 successfully petitioned the new Massachusetts state legislature for a pension to support herself and her invalid daughter. Belinda’s eloquent petition, which includes a first-person description of the Middle Passage of the transatlantic slave trade, is among the earliest writings by an African woman in America and its outcome is considered by many to be the first instance of reparations for slavery in this country.

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