Chris Magra


In his “The ‘Negro Chocolate Grinders’ of Newport: Slavery and Freedom in Eighteenth-Century Rhode Island,” Chris Magra describes a business that was dependent on the labor of hired enslaved workers. He skillfully examines the many complexities of a practice that could have provided a small modicum of autonomy to enslaved workers, but instead caught them in a system rife for exploitation and financial harm. Using the account books of Aaron Lopez, the wealthy merchant who employed enslaved men in his chocolate-processing operation, Magra illuminates the working lives of Lopez’s laborers, and practices that were designed to increase productivity and to subvert any possibility of economic gain for the workers. Chris Magra is a Professor of Early American history at the University of Tennessee. His first two books were bottom-up histories of the American Revolution. He has published articles in several academic journals, including the International Review of Social History and the New England Quarterly. He is currently finishing his third book, which examines slave labor and food production in early America.