Reverend Phillips preached from the South Church pulpit for sixty years, a not unusually lengthy portion of time, since ministers were understood to have been appointed for life. Histories of early Andover don't go much into what he said all those years in his sermons, although publication occasionally followed, as in Seasonable Advice to a Neighbour, Given by Way of A familiar Dialogue; or In Answer to various Questions, relative to Five important Points in Divinity. Done with a View to promote practical Godliness, which was printed and sold by S. Kneeland of Boston in 1761. But those histories often do mention that each time he and his wife walked from the parsonage to the church, they were accompanied by their two African American “servants," one of them, a man, close by the side of the Reverend, the other, a woman, assisting Mrs. Phillips -- a procession that conveyed the relative stature of each member of the foursome and their corresponding place in the community.
Even before they were freed, writes Edward L. Bell, an historic preservation officer at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, enslaved people in New England "were typically referred to with the seemingly gentler-sounding euphemism of ‘servant’ that masked hard-working lives marked by surveillance, lack of control, segregation, confinement, objectification, base brutality, and familiar isolation.”  However, to judge by a two-item lot sold at a Swann Galleries auction in New York in 2020, neither "slave" nor "servant" was necessarily used when referring to people of color in Andover, their status understood. The first item in the lot was a bill of sale showing that John Foster (b. 1724) of Andover sold to his son Solomon Foster (b. 1743) of Littleton, Massachusetts, “a negro woman named Elizabeth of about twenty-eight years of age” on April 25, 1772.  The price was “ten Pounds.” The second item, another bill of sale, dated June 15, 1778, indicates strongly that Solomon Foster must have lost the same woman at some point and was now reacquiring her from Peter Bulkley of Littleton. Bulkley, the bill says, was selling to him “a negro woman named Elizabeth” along with “the last child the sd [sic] Elizabeth had.” Given the additional enslaved person, the price was now “Thirty pounds.”  As for why enslaved people, once freed by Massachusetts law in 1783, stayed on as “servants" (who invariably earned "slave" wages), they usually had no place else to go.
The image of the enslaved couple accompanying the Phillipses to church was first mentioned in print by Reverend John L. Taylor in his memoir of Judge Phillips, published in 1856, in which he was relying on the memory of an eye witness, not his own recollection. (Taylor was born in 1811, one hundred years after the Reverend took the job in Andover.)  In 1959, Claude M. Fuess, a P.A. headmaster, repeated the detail in Andover: Symbol of New England. Without crediting the Taylor memoir and as if he had himself witnessed the foursome, Fuess wrote, “It was a slow and stately procession which the congregation rose to greet as it entered the church door.”  In his book, Persistence of Memories of Slavery and Emancipation in Historical Andover, Bell names the couple, Salem and Rama, and notes that Rama was also variously known as Rema, Remy, and Rhena. In 1760 Reverend Phillips produced “A Form, For a Negroe-Marriage” for Salem and Rama.  A marriage license in essence, it wasn't just a record of the legality and permanence of their relationship. Bell stresses that the Form “repeatedly reminded them of their roles and duties as slaves to him and Mrs. Phillips,” which took precedence [over] their duties to each other.” 
Reverend Phillips died in 1771. The following year, a Reverend Jonathan French was installed as the new pastor of South Church. French and the fourth Samuel Phillips (that is, the future Judge Phillips and P.A. founder who was Reverend Phillips's grandson) had been at Harvard together (class of 1771). So fate, in the form of a personal connection, probably had a hand in a career move in Andover once again. After Reverend Phillips's death, Salem and Rama served Reverend French, as did two of their four sons, Cyrus and Titus. But how that came to be, says Bell, is "uncertain," meaning he doesn’t know whether they were given to Reverend French by Reverend Phillips's bequest or by the church, because Bell couldn’t discover who had paid for them in the first place.  They may well have been church "property." Or not. Charlotte Lyon, South Church's historian, has written: "When [Reverend Phillips] died in 1771, I think Mrs. Phillips gave the slaves, Salem and Remy, to Rev. Jonathan French at the parsonage."  In other words, Lyon thinks that Salem and Rama were Mrs. Phillips's to give.
Those who condoned or tolerated slavery in the eighteenth century are often forgiven with the same phrase in which racists of more recent vintage are likewise absolved. That is, they were "of their time." And yet throughout history there have been people who have managed not to be of their time. In 1770, three years before the publication of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, Phillis Wheatley published "An Elegiac Poem of the Death of that Celebrated Diving, and Eminent Servant of Jesus Christ, George Whitefield." The British itinerant evangelist had died one year earlier than Reverend Phillips, having fallen ill in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he is buried. The poem was published as a broadside and a pamphlet in Boston, Newport, and Philadelphia, and subsequently published with Ebenezer Pemberton’s funeral sermon for Whitefield in London in 1771, bringing Wheatley international acclaim even before the book was issued. The poem urges preachers to include "Africans" in their mission and to tell them: "If you will chuse to walk in grace's road,/You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to GOD.  Undoubtedly, Reverend Phillips as well as Reverend French were made aware of it. Of course, in the 1770s, Wheatley's literary achievements could take her only so far. Her byline on the Whitefield poem reads not "Phillis Wheatley," but "PHILLIS, a Servant Girl of 17 Years of Age, Belonging to Mr. J. WHEATLEY, of Boston" -- he who had named her after the slave ship Phillis that had brought her here! What is more distressing, the most famous lines of Wheatley's best known poem, "On Being Brought From Africa to America," express gratitude that she was enslaved in the first place: " ’Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,/Taught my benighted soul to understand/That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:/ Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.” It is the exact argument that anti-abolitionists would use for their own justification of slavery.  I guess she, too, was of her time.
1. Samuel Phillips Diary, in An Astronomical Diary, or, An Almanack 1744 by Nathaniel Ames. Collection of American Antiquarian Society. Note: Quinsy, as it is correctly spelled, is an old term for a peritonsillar abscess.
2. Edward L. Bell, Persistence of Memories of Slavery and Emancipation in Historical Andover (Boston, Shawsheen Press: 2021), 39.
3. Charlotte Helen Abbott, "Early Records of the Foster Family," https://mhl.org/sites/default/files/files/Abbott/Foster%20Family.pdf Retrieved April 23, 2022.
4. Swann Galleries, Lot #7, March 26 (May 7), 2020. The catalog is dated earlier, but due to the pandemic, the sale was delayed. Dates of birth of the Fosters are from https://mhl.org/sites/default/files/files/Abbott/Foster%20Family.pdf Retrieved April 23, 2022.
5. John L. Taylor, A Memoir of His Honor Samuel Phillips (Boston: Congregational Publishing Society, 1856), 9.
6. Claude M. Fuess, Andover: Symbol of New England, The Evolution of a Town (Andover: The Andover Historical Society and the North Andover Historical Society, 1959), 156.Fuess, Symbol, 156-157. The same image is included by Richard D. Shiels in “The Scope of the Second Great Awakening in Andover, Massachusetts, as a Case Study,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 5, No. 2. Religion in the Early Republic (Summer 1985): 226.
7. Bell, 121.
9. Ibid., 122.
10. Charlotte Lyon, “South Church: Founding History and Abolitionism: An Essay Regarding New Facts,” March 2011, unpublished, 1.
11. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/wheatley/whitefield/whitefield.html Retrieved April 24, 2022.
12. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45465/on-being-brought-from-africa-to-america Retrieved April 25, 2022.