The Enslaved People of Pennsylvania

Enslaved people were held in Pennsylvania at its inception in 1681. At the height of the institution in 1750, Pennsylvania had over 6,000 enslaved people in the state with an overall population of 120,000. 

Protests Against Slavery

The first written protest against the practice of slavery in the American colonies came from Pennsylvania’s Germantown Friends in 1688. In 1775, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society formed, the first of its kind in the nation. In 1780, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed the "Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery", the first ever to be enacted in America. 

The Gradual Abolition Act did not free slaves immediately. It specified that "every Negro and Mulatto child born within the State after the passing of the Act (1780) would be free upon reaching age twenty-eight.” The act also provided that all enslaved peoples in the state would be registered before the 1st of November 1782. In 1790 there were 3,737 enslaved people registered, by 1800 there were 1,706, by 1810 there were 795. In 1840, there remained 64 enslaved people in the state.  It wasn’t until the 1850 census that Slavery had been completely abolished.

Enslaved People of Bucks County

After the 1782 registration, Bucks County records show that there were 530 enslaved peoples in the County at that time. The 1790 census shows that among the County’s 25,000 citizens there were 581 free African Americans and 261 who were still enslaved. By 1820, 11 African Americans remained enslaved in the County.

The Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in the State of Pennsylvania

Act of the "gradual Abolition of Slavery"