African Americans

Research by Kate McDannold, Tristan Reid, Derrick Cope

1. “An Act to Amend and Act therein mentioned, concerning Servants and Slaves”

This document contains the updated sections of North Carolina’s slave codes as they were originally passed in 1758.

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To view link to the complete document, click here.

2. Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation

In 1775, the royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, issues a proclamation promising freedom to any slave willing to fight for the King’s army. Many slaves ran away to join Dunmore’s troops, eager to find an opportunity to gain freedom. For African Americans, Dunmore’s Proclamation made important connections between military service and freedom.

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To view a rare copy of Dunmore’s Proclamation, click here.

3. Runaway slaves during the war years: Example 1, Male runaways

In this runaway slave ad example, an African American man (referred to as Smart) is being searched for by his owner James Davis. The ad gives details about his physical appearance, as well as information about distinguishing features from his master’s perspective. Lastly, the short paragraph gives a clue about where he could be hiding in the local community and states the reward for capturing the slave. This format forms a consistent pattern when observing other runaway slave ads accessible to the public online through this particular database.

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 To read more about the context for this runaway advertisement, click here.

 

4. Runaway slaves during the war years: Example 2, Male runaways

The second male example goes great lengths to not only describe the slave but also in giving orders on how to move forward if the slave (referred to as Jack) didn’t return. An explanation of this could possibly be found when looking into why he was thought to have been committing “Acts of Felony” in the colony. However, those records aren’t available anymore. Another interesting part of this ad presents itself at the end of the text when it said, “If the said Jack doth not surrender himself, and return home, immediately… any Person or Persons may kill and destroy the said Slave, …without Impeachment or Accusation of any Crime…”. The officials in the area essentially gave any subject the power to murder Jack if he didn’t return after the ad was published.

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To view information about this advertisement, click here.
5. Runaway slaves during the war years: Example 3, Female runaways
The ad below displays how a woman was described by her slave master in July of 1778. When thinking about runaway slaves during the years of the American Revolution, it is important to recognize that woman ran away as well. Suck was described as short woman who looked and talked like a “new negro”. This could be interpreted into a multitude of things but it seemed to refer to someone who had just arrived in the colonies. An interesting part of this particular ad is when the writer refers to Suck’s husband who apparently lived nearby and went by the name Borton. The separation of of slave families were a regular occurrence but is nevertheless, heartbreaking to see in writing.
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To see the full text of the advertisement, click here.

6. Runaway slaves during the war years: Example 4, Groups of slaves

Runaway slaves often escaped bondage alone but there were also instances of small groups leaving together in some cases. On September 3, 1769, four slaves did just that by escaping their master(s) in what is still today known as Rowan County, NC. Three of them belonged to Francis Lock and one was the property of George Magoune. Their names were Jack, Arthur, Rachael and Phillis. In this ad, the text revolved around the physical attributes of each slave. Attributes ranged from Arthur “having ugly feet” to Rachel who was “very well featured, and not very black”. Notably, the text is absence of information about where they could have been headed or any evaluation of their progress toward learning the English language.

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To see the full text of the advertisement, click here.

7. Runaway slaves during the war years: Example 5, Elderly runaways

Elderly men and woman would have seemed like the last people to run away. However, freedom was never too late to obtain and many slaves proved this by escaping their master late in their adult lives. Amongst these brave slaves were a man referred to as Buck in the ad. At the age of fifty, he had escaped his master who didn’t seem very surprised by the matter. Buck was described as a man “full of compliments, very spry, (and) a cunning artful fellow”. Lastly, Buck’s master’s reward of forty shillings equaled the total amount that was also paid to anyone who could bring in the group from the previous example. This is significant when thinking about Buck’s overall value to his current master at the time.

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To see the full text of the advertisement, click here.