New Haven: Socoro (1815)

Socoro was about 44 years old in 1815, when she was brought to Connecticut from Trinidad. The woman who held her in slavery had inherited her from her (the slaveholder’s) mother, and had traveled to New Haven (it appears) to marry a local businessman. Socoro arrived in August and by October had successfully made arrangements to leave again – or at least to be liberated.

Specifically, she had “manifested a wish to be made free and emancipated from her master and mistress and their service and to return to said Island of Trinidad.” And on October 5 they signed the manumission document just quoted (and excerpted below).

socoro_terms

New Haven Land Records, Vol. 64, Pg. 97, 10/05/1815.

Why did the slaveholders agree to this? Given that the woman was a newlywed, it seems possible that Socoro had been a major part of her upbringing, perhaps even her nursemaid; there may have been some affection in the relationship, despite the inherent inequality of the two. The husband was part of a New Haven family that had been prominent during the Revolutionary War, and may have been just as happy to not be involved in slaveholding. There’s no direct evidence for either possibility, of course, but we can still speculate.

Why did Socoro want to leave? Well, it would take an effort to find a place more different from Trinidad than Connecticut. No doubt all her friends and family were in Trinidad. She may have been entirely miserable in this foreign place. Still, I’ve wondered whether it was her actual birthplace or not, and tried to think it through. If she was 44 in 1815, then she was born in about 1771, well before the island was taken from the Spanish by the British in 1797. Her name actually means “help” or “relief” in Spanish, suggesting that she was one of the more than 10,000 enslaved people on the island in 1797. But was she born there? For about a decade before 1797, a lot of migration of slaveholders brought people from French islands in the Caribbean; and it is always possible that she was actually born in Africa. Even more enslaved people were brought in after the British takeover. On the other hand, there’s her apparently-Spanish name suggesting origins during the Spanish period there – and the Spanish surname of the slaveholders she formerly lived with. It actually seems possible that she didn’t even speak English very well.

But regardless of what her birthplace actually was, she wanted to go back to Trinidad, and she wanted to go back free, it must be noted. The slaveholding woman’s family still lived in Trinidad, and Socoro could have been sent back to them as a slave; but no, she wanted freedom, and was indeed emancipated.

How she planned to find the money to take ship back home, I don’t know. Nor do I know whether she actually did go – it is possible that the “going home” part was more wish than solid intent, and mentioned largely to convince the New Haven authorities that she was not going to wind up on the town’s pauper rolls. But I prefer to imagine her sailing back, freedom papers and perhaps a bit of money in hand, and joining the community of thousands of free people of color that already existed on the island.

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One Response to New Haven: Socoro (1815)

  1. Pingback: Slaveholder Roundup #1: New Haven | History Live!

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