Black History and Maple Sugaring

February ... the month when we celebrate Black History and make maple syrup. A brief trip back in history will illuminate why it is perfect that these align.

In the 1780s and 1790s, after the American Revolution, another revolution was beginning: the maple sugar revolution. This revolution was opposed to the enslavement of Africans and the cane sugar industry, and sought to undercut its evil economics.

Abolitionists were joined by Dr. Benjamin Rush and a group of Quakers to advance this revolution. Dr. Rush's goal was "to lessen or destroy the consumption of West Indian sugar, and thus indirectly to destroy negro slavery."

They were later joined by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to a friend in 1790, "What a blessing to substitute a sugar which requires only the labour of children, for that which is said renders the slavery of the blacks necessary." Jefferson strongly urged farmers in the north to expand their operations to include sugaring, stating, "I have never seen a reason why every farmer should not have a sugar orchard, as well as an apple orchard."

Unfortunately, the efforts of these men never fully supplanted cane sugar for maple sugar. However, their efforts did result in the increased production of maple syrup, helping to secure the traditions and practices still in place today. America's demand for sugar kept growing and with the drop of cane sugar prices over time, consumption of maple sugar was eventually surpassed. At this point sugarers began transitioning to make maple syrup instead of maple sugar.

So, whether you produce maple syrup, or enjoy it on your favorite foods, do so with the extra sweetness of knowing how the production of it grew, in part, with the goal to end the enslavement of Africans. Heat up the griddle, cook up some pancakes, and pour on the maple syrup. What a sweet way to celebrate Black History month.
Thomas Jefferson and the Maple Sugar Scheme.  Mary Miley Theobald.


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