Between 1660 and 1760, French colonists in New France enslaved as many as 10,000 Native Americans, forcing them to work as farm hands, domestic servants, and construction laborers. Enslaved Natives tended livestock, prepared meals, washed laundry, loaded trade goods into warehouses and onto boats, and cared for French children. Despite the trauma of their violent capture and forced transport into an alien culture, they found ways to survive: forming friendships, stealing private moments of solitude, making plans for a future when they would no longer be slaves. Most never saw that future. More than half died before the age of 20, and only a few successfully escaped or were freed. Surviving documents offer few details about their complex lives. For many, all that remains are names.
The animation below displays the names of more than 1,200 individuals enslaved in New France during this 100-year span. Each name appears at approximately the time he or she would have lived. Click on the names that appear in red for more information. Asterisks represent people we know were slaves but whose names have been lost.
Interactive by Andrew Kahn.
Data and biographical information courtesy of Brett Rushforth.
Background image by Tim Jones.