Brookline Town Government and Slavery

Slavery was never simply about what happened between enslaved people and their owners. The government was complicit in slavery, regularizing and facilitating slavery.

Brookline has always been governed by a Town Meeting.
Slavery was first mentioned in local Town Meeting records in the 17th century, when Brookline had limited self-government under the authority of Boston.
Records point to several forms of complicity, including the Brookline Town Meeting's decision to use an enslaved man to clean town hall. After slavery died out in the early 19th century, the topic did not rise again, even during the Civil War.

The issue of slavery only returned to Town Meeting in 2012, close to 250 years after first being mentioned. In 2012, the elected representatives from across the town voted, after lengthy debate, to acknowledge the complicity of the Brookline Town Meeting and of town citizens in the practice of slavery.

17th and 18th century Town Meeting resolutions that mention slavery

2012: Town Meeting acknowledges complicity in slavery