A Slave at the Press: Peter Fleet and Reports of Slave Unrest in the Boston Evening-Post, 1735-1758


The rediscovery of Peter Fleet’s will at the Massachusetts Historical Society provides an opportunity to examine the legacy of early America’s first Black newspaperman. Fleet provided a previously unrecognized connection between printed news and the enslaved community of Boston. As the enslaved typesetter of the Boston Evening-Post, he composed more stories of slave unrest than any newspaper in New England during his time at the press. Fleet’s labour in the print shop placed him at the center of communication of rumours of rebellion and freedom in the early British Atlantic. Fleet’s will may be the earliest known record of probate created by a Black slave in the English-speaking world, but his manuscript gains greater significance as evidence of Fleet’s long struggle to assert control over his life and labour at one of early Boston’s most influential newspapers.


History and Political Science


The American Antiquarian Society supported this work with a Legacy Fellowship.

This article was published online 09 Sep 2021.

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Keywords and Phrases

Printer; News; Newspaper; Slave; Slavery; Rebellion; Resistance; Communication; Network; Community; Black; Will; Probate; Peculium; Boston, Massachusetts; American; British; Colonial; Atlantic; Agency

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0144-039X; 1743-9523

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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Publication Date

09 Sep 2021