The sickening practice of permanently separating children from parents was commonplace during the slave trade. This advertisement from the February 17, 1795 edition of The Daily Advertiser states “For Sale, A likely young Black Woman with her male child, she is twenty four years old, and the boy three and a half years old….She will be sold with or without her child.” This newspaper includes 2 other slave-related advertisements (see below) and an advertisement for “The Manumission Society…The quarterly meeting of the society for promoting the manumission of Slaves.”
This May 12, 1860 edition of the New York Weekly Tribune features three interesting slave-related articles. “A deplorable instance of the mental darkness and obliquity of the African race has just been brought to light. An ebony chattel calling himself William Bracker—a name which probably belongs to his master—most ungratefully tired of working for such hog and hominy as is freely accorded to chattels in the patriarchal State of South Carolina—resolved to commit a grand larceny of his own body and bones, hide, features and wool—as villainous chattels have been known to do ere now—and, to this end, stowed himself away on board the steamship…If that negro should ever again be caught aboard of a vessel chartered by a regiment of Democratic officeholders and office-seekers, in the hope of thus escaping slavery, he will deserve for his stupidity a far severer flogging than his master has now in store for him.”…
This is an August 25, 1863 letter from abolitionist John Van Fleet whose home was used as a safe house on the Underground Railroad in Ohio. Two years before the end of slavery and the end of the Civil War, Van Fleet writes this cryptic letter to Mr. Harkness where he states that “I have been talking with some…they seem to express an anxious feeling to see you there.” “I have been sorry at times that I entered into a compromise of our matters.” “Come over at your earliest convenience and I will meet you any place designated.” “PS} You may Direct to Canton as I will be there considerable of the time for a while to come.“ Direct slaves? While “You may direct to…” was a common phrase to designate where to direct written correspondence, one cannot help but wonder if, since Van Fleet was an Underground Railroad safe house operator, this phrase has a critically important double meaning–especially with his ambiguous reference to “our matters.” It is signed “J.P. Van Fleet” After the PS, he signs “JPVF”
This October 8, 1822 edition of the General Advertiser (Easton, MD) has a total of 15 slave-related advertisements including one that says, “RANAWAY or was kinappped…a negro woman named HARRIET, who has a white male child, about one year old…Her child is named William Alford Henry, but generally called Alford. She has generally been used to house work, such as plain cooking, &c. and is much addicted to snuff rubbing…”
Original manuscript document signed, one page, 8×10, Washington County, District of Columbia, January 15, 1822. Fine condition, with some age wear.
This is The Natchez Weekly Courier from September 24, 1856. It is a four-page weekly that is COMPLETE and in fine condition. There are nine different slave advertisements with two of them illustrated; four of the slave ads are relating to runaways. One of the slave ads is for Lewis, a 26-year-old runaway with the horrific statement, “…a scar under his left eye, and he has been badly whipped.” I have never seen a more haunting statement in a runaway slave advertisement. Click for six more photos…
This March 13, 1855 edition of the New York Tribune includes an article about an advertisement for “Negro Dogs.” It states, “I would inform the citizens of Holmes County that i still have my NEGRO DOGS and that they are in good training and ready to attend to all calls of hunting and catching RUNAWAY NEGROES at the following rates. For hunting per day, five dollars
This August 30, 1828 edition of the National Intelligencer has 7 slave ads. One advertises a FORTY DOLLARS REWARD for a 17 or 18-year-old named William. “He is of a bright yellow complexion…his hair nearly straight; is an excellent house servant and waiter, and unusually smart and intelligent for one of his color.” Another advertises FIFTY DOLLARS REWARD for SYE. “When he left home had a swollen face and a cut finger occasioned from an attack made by him on his overseer a few days before he absconded. His wife is living in Washington City, with Mr. John Baker, who hires
This Real Estate and Personal Property tax document mentions “poll tax” for “Negro” J.A. Bebee, but it is signed W.T. Beebe in Beaufort County, North Carolina (in Washington “township”). Note that both the signed first and last names are different than the name printed on the front of the document, suggesting that the printed name on page one is a clerical error. This is historically very interesting because J.A. Beebe bought his freedom for $2300 and made a name for himself in Beaufort, North Carolina first as a pastor and then Bishop, establishing many CME churches around the country…
This September 6, 1828 edition of The National Intelligencer (Washington D.C.) has a total of 5 slave ads. The first offers “FORTY DOLLARS REWARD” for “my Negro Woman, LETTY BROWN, taking with her, her two children, Bob and Dave…she is about 35 or 40 years of age. Bob is about 7 years of age…and carries his head on one side. Dave is about two years of age, of a yellow complexion…he has, also, a scar on the right or left arm, just above the elbow, occasioned by a burn which he received a few days before he was taken from my residence. The said woman and her children were taken off on Sunday night…by a yellow man of George Calvert’s, living near Bladensburgh, who calls himself Tarlton Brown, and who owns her as his wife.”
DeBow’s Review was the most widely circulated southern periodical during the mid-19th century. Before the Civil War, the magazine would recommend the “best practices” for making slavery profitable. In this collection, two issues are presented, May of 1860 and April of 1866. In this 1860 edition, under a section titled “PECULIARITIES AND DISEASES OF NEGROES” on p. 597-598 (click 2 graphics above), the author notes “In the diet and clothing, as well as in the houses of the negro, his feeble heat-generating powers should be strictly regarded….It has been before stated that the best food of this class fat bacon and pork, corn and peas, as these abound in oil which is a heat-generating element; while corn is also valuable as an element of strength and muscular growth. Besides these, negroes should be liberally supplied with garden vegetables, and with milk and molasses, occasionally, at least….What shall be done with the little “niggers” who are so prone to commence their depredations on the orchard while it is yet in the bud? I would suggest that the orchard be set some distance from the house, and that no negro, small or great, be allowed to visit it except one or two to bring supplies to the rest
This May 1, 1828 edition of the National Intelligencer includes a runaway slave advertisement stating, “NEGRO LEWIS absconded from the employment of a neighboring farmer sometime in the month of January last, and has not been seen by his employer since. He is about 22 years of age, remarkably stout, and nearly six feet high. Lewis is a fine looking fellow, very cunning, and can look dull, heavy, or sprightly, when he pleases. He will no doubt obtain a forged pass, and make for Pennsylvania. I have been recently informed that his sweetheart is a slave, belonging to
This December 11, 1821 edition of the General Advertiser features 14 slave advertisements, 13 of them are runaway ads. Photos for all of them are listed below, but one of them involves a runaway child who is 3 feet four inches high. This newspaper was delivered to and owned by John Quincy Adams when he was Secretary of State in the James Monroe administration. His name “John Q Adams, Esq” is written (not by Adams) in the top left hand blank margin of the front page, and served as a sort of 19th century address label.
This October 29, 1831 edition of the Niles’ Weekly Register was published in Baltimore, MD and reports on “‘Gen. Nat’ It is believed that this distinguished leader of the blacks at the massacre in Virginia, was drowned, in attempting to cross New river. So says a letter to the governor of the state.” Also…
This September 6th, 1825 edition of the National Intelligencer (in Washington DC) contains 3 particularly heartbreaking runaway slave ads. The first is a “$100 DOLLARS REWARD” for BEN, and states “He can write a pretty good hand, and no doubt has copied the papers of some free man; and I have reason to believe he stole the Stafford County seal and attached the impression of it to his papers. He carried with him three of his daughters, the property of my neighbor, Moses Kendall, and a Negro Man, the husband of one of
This is the December 29,1825 edition of The Virginian. There are a total of 8 slave ads, 2 of them are runaway slave notices. The most disturbing of the ads states, “WANTED the ensuing year, a NEGRO MAN of steady habits to remain about a House and Lot–one that is a little advanced in years, and without a wife would be preferred–also a small girl about 8 or 10 years of age. Apply at this office.”
This is the July 14, 1840 edition of the Richmond Enquirer and contains 3 runaway slave advertisements. The first slave as states $225 REWARD–Ran away from the undersigned, about the 1st of January last, a negro woman named SCINDA–Since she has departed, I have every reason to believe she has for a long time been engaged with others in the use of poisonous medicants in the family, and suspicion rested on her previously. She is of common stature, dark skin, rather large and prominent nose, austere countenance, –about 27 years of age…” Also, $25 for CRITTY, a negro woman aged about 52 or 3. –Also, $75 for the apprehension of the two Thieves, and their conviction to the Penitentiary, who stole her from my kitchen a few nights ago. These two thieves came armed as Banditti, in the dead time of night and stole her off. She is of low stature and dark skin. She will make herself known on enquiry, as she is attached to the family, and came home after being dragged off by such a Banditti once before.”
“Negroes Wanted” and “200 Negroes Wanted” advertisements. COMPLETE front section of the Daily National Intelligencer, Washington D.C. Wednesday, January 30, 1833. First ad: “The subscriber wishes to purchase from forty to fifty Negroes of both sexes, form the age of twelve years to twenty-five. He will exchange two 2 story brick Houses…for Negroes, or give the highest cash price.” Second ad: “Two Hundred Negroes of both sexes from twelve to twenty-five years old, field hands or mechanics…determined to give higher prices for slaves than any purchaser who is now, or may hereafter come into this market.”
These 1839 runaway slaves from the COMPLETE front section of the Charleston Courier are described with incredible detail in these heartbreaking advertisements. In fact, I don’t see how someone can read these ads and not feel compassion for the men that must have been panic-stricken while on the run during the publication of this newspaper. From the 1st ad: “The above reward will be given on proof of being harbored by a white person ($300), or One Hundred Dollars for any or each of them, or Thirty Dollars for each, if proved to be harbored by a colored person, or Twenty-five Dollars for each of them being lodged in any Jail or Workhouse, so that I can get them.
“If they will return of their own accord, they will not be punished. Masters of vessels and others are particularly cautioned against employing or carrying them away, as the law will be strictly enforced.”
Interestingly, there is one ad seeking the conviction of a white person harboring a slave…”FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD for conviction of a White Person, who may have harbored my slave Billy…$200 for the conviction of a free person of color….$20 for proof of his having been harbored by a slave…” PLEASE SEE OTHER PHOTOS BELOW.
This is the full front section from the May 4th, 1838 Daily National Intelligencer. It includes one runaway and three slave purchase advertisements. First ad: “FIFTY DOLLARS REWARD.-Eloped from my residence ELOIZA, a young negress of ordinary stature and size, but strongly made, about 22 years old, color of a chestnut or brown, long thick wooly hair, which is commonly neatly combed, parted before, and tucked with combs. Her clothing consists of several calico frocks, white cotton aprons and collars, and a black bombasin dress. She has had from her birth a very singular mark, resembling the dashing on the skin of coffee grounds or some black substance. This mark, to the best of my recollection, commences on the neck or collar bone, and covers part of her breasts, body, and limbs, and when her neck and arms are uncovered is very perceptable. I understand that she calls herself Louisa, and has been frequently seen east and south of the Capitol square, and harbored by ill-