By Ella Montalvo, Class of 2022, Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School
It is scary to imagine that these people suffered on the very grass we walk on in our town but it isn’t any better for it to be the grass that others in the South walk on. Flora was an enslaved person in Guilford, Connecticut from 1739 to 1771. She was the daughter of two slaves, Montros and Philis, who were enslaved to Ruth and David Naughty. Flora had a child named Cesar who later died in 1817. Throughout her life, she never experienced freedom but sought for her son to experience his freedom. Something difficult for people in New England states to understand is that slavery was everywhere in the United States not just on plantations in the South. Flora and her family are a representation of this. She experienced the same pain, dehumanization, and unethical treatment as others did. If we can’t recognize that slavery shaped our towns then we will never truly understand the legacy of slavery across the United States.
Whether of the lack of documents or because of the denial of slavery in New England, we don’t hear much about the enslaved people in Guilford. However, we know that because Guilford is and was an agricultural town, you would commonly find people enslaved to do farm/labor work. Flora’s son, Cesar, was born at a neighbor of the Naughtys’ where Flora as rented out or indentured to.. He was seen as an animal just like the horses. He was listed on the probate inventory of Nathanial Hill for 35 pounds while the horses and oxen were being sold collectively for 30 pounds. A human was only worth 5 pounds more than an animal. Cesar nor other enslaved people were seen as human for their main purpose in life was to “work for the white man.” Cesar was not alone in his struggle as his mother, Flora, his grandparents, and aunts/uncles all suffered in the same way. At the time, there were 75 documented enslaved people being sold to white men in Guilford. There were most likely more than 75 enslaved people however, only now are some being documented in history. This is because most were likely indentured servants that worked in the houses and weren’t tossed around as frequently as the “farm animals.” Slavery happened everywhere in the United States and although it is difficult to imagine that something as horrible as slavery happened in our small town remember that the North was only so much better than the South in their racist ideas.
Flora experienced severe unethical acts against her throughout her life and would never get rid of these scars until she died. She was dehumanized, treated unfairly, had her rights stripped from her in order to “help” her, and was indentured to people in order for her owners to get money. However, throughout all of this, she resisted these acts by setting up her child to live past her and one day be freed. Dehumanization, not being seen as human, was what all enslaved people experienced. Flora experienced this when she was listed in David Naughty’s probate inventory for Naughty’s for 5 pounds classified as a “Negro girl.” She was listed as if she was part of a house, as if she was only a tool and not a human who can never have a price put on. From there she was only treated unethically and unfairly. David Naughty wrote a will specifying that when he died that Montros, Philis, along with their children were to be set free and given a house and supplies. However, once David died Ruth Naughty didn’t do this and instead of setting Flora’s siblings free, she kept them enslaved for their lives. Ruth Naughty’s paternalistic perspective showed that her ideas were the correct ones for Flora. She believed that it would be best for Flora’s siblings to “Live in some good Regular & Religious families as servants rather than to enjoy Freedom.” This showed that she believed that her actions were only helping them live a better life.
Not only did Ruth Naughty believe that she was helping, she had previously indentured Flora and her siblings to her neighbors. By doing this Ruth benefited financially from this arrangement. Flora got pregnant and had a child who we can understand was taught the ways to behave and act as an enslaved person. But Flora also taught him how to survive if he ever were to be free. She had a plan that Cesar would live past her age and one day be set free. A better life than she could ever imagine for herself. Flora was not alone in the struggles of surviving enslavement, in the United States, millions of people were enslaved and treated like they weren’t human. It is not right for people to plan for their death in the case that maybe, just maybe, their child can live free from the pain they experienced. However, this was the life of many during this time and Flora was no exception.
In conclusion, slavery was everywhere and it is part of everyone’s history. Flora was an enslaved person for her entire life. She did not start an uprising, speak out against slavery or run away. But we must recognize every single enslaved person’s sacrifice. By learning and saying Flora’s name she becomes real. She walked down the same streets you and I have walked. By telling her story we are acknowledging her sacrifice, her soul, and her life as meaningful. She is impactful to the point where we can understand and value the lives of people who built our towns, our cities, our states, and our country.