FIRST EMANCIPATION It is often forgotten that although the African American slave population of the North was relatively small during the prerevolutionary era, in most northern areas, including New England, black servitude was as common and as acceptable as it was in the South. Treatment of slaves, of course, varied from master to master, but in general the lives of even northern slaves were undeniably harsh.
The relatively modern expression "first emancipation" has been used to describe the efforts made from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries, by both individuals and groups, to abolish slavery in the northern states. In response to Quaker agitation and the realization that slavery was ideologically inconsistent with the goals of the American Revolution, the state of Pennsylvania, in 1780, provided for the gradual abolition of slavery. Following Pennsylvania's lead, the remaining northern states made similar provision for "emancipation" between 1780 and 1804.