Nicholas Dudley, (different) Joseph Dudley, & Simon Bradstreet


The Dudley Family & Their Enslaved People

Nicholas Dudley, (different) Joseph Dudley, & Simon Bradstreet

Jospeh Dudley (Son of William)

This Joseph was a Boston lawyer and the son of William Dudley and nephew of Judge Paul Dudley, who was his guardian. In Joseph’s 1767 will he leaves “my negro-man named Cato” to his wife Abigail. (History of the Dudley Family .pdf pg 633)

Abstract of (other) Joseph Dudley’s 1767 will as printed in Dean Dudley’s History

Nicholas Dudley & Simon Bradstreet

Two other Dudley family members, Nicholas Dudley and Simon Bradstreet, may seem extrinsic to a discussion of the Dudleys’ relationship to Roxbury, but Simon Bradstreet was a colonial governor and the records of these two enslavers reveal names of enslaved people, a gift.

Nicholas was the great-grandson of Thomas Dudley through the Reverend Samuel Dudley (born in England before the migration and settled in Exeter, New Hampshire) and Stephen Dudley.

Dean Dudley recounts in History that in 1753 Nicholas “gave a receipt to his son-in-law Josiah Robinson…for five pounds in full for a female ‘Negro Slave named Kate’ then aged about eight.” Dean then casually recounts, with no further exposition that, after Nicholas died in 1766, “[t]he slaves mentioned in his will and other papers were soon set free, as slavery was abolished in New Hampshire in 1781” (History .pdf pg 302). Here, Dean Dudley’s 19th-century indifference to the cruelty faced by Black people sits stark naked on the page. 

Excerpt from Dean Dudley’s History of the Dudley Family, 1884

Simon Bradstreet was Thomas Dudley’s assistant in service to the Earl of Lincoln and married Thomas’s daughter, the famous poet Anne (Dudley) Bradstreet, before the Bradstreets and Dudleys settled in Massachusetts. Anne preceded Simon in death by 25 years, therefore it’s difficult to know what her relationship to enslaved people was.  According to Gloria McCahon Whiting’s article, Simon, who died in 1697, filed a 1689 will that bequeaths an enslaved African woman Hannah and her daughter Billah to his new wife. The Bradstreet family continued to enslave African Americans in Essex County, evidenced by one Chance Bradstreet, who was born enslaved and died a free man in 1810.

The poet Anne Bradstreet. Not to be confused with her husband’s second wife, Ann Bradstreet.

(Updated 08/22/2021)


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