By Amanda Fonorow
Bassett, John S. Slavery in the State of North Carolina. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1899.
This slim Victorian volume presents the interesting but outmoded thesis that the treatment of slaves prior to about 1831 was markedly better than their treatment after that date. According to Bassett, the public debate about slavery became more impassioned and polarized because of the national political climate as new territories applied for statehood and because of the increase in the productivity of cotton plantations due to the cotton gin. These developments, according to the author, led to severe legal restrictions and punishments for slaves who roamed afield or ran away. Later historians would attribute the same effects to the public hysteria prompted by the Nat Turner Rebellion.
Cecelski, David S. The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Users of the digital collection will notice that the bulk of the ads mention that slaves are likely to have escaped to New Bern, Wilmington, or other North Carolina coastal towns and “forewarn all persons or masters of vessels from carrying them off.” North Carolina’s inland waterways provided a means of labor and escape for runaway slaves, but were also home to a slave economy of their own. The slave population was disproportionately situated on the coast, and the effect that this had on the slave economy, culture, and on slave movement between bondage and freedom has, prior to Cecelski’s work, been largely ignored. This is the only monograph that fully explores slavery on the state’s coast and inland waterways, demonstrating the significance of Black maritime culture and the connections to its Afro-Caribbean roots. It is thoroughly indexed, and includes maps and illustrations to supplement the text.
Drake, Thomas E. Quakers and Slavery in America. Gloucester, Mass: P. Smith, 1965.
Drake traces changing Quaker attitudes about slavery, from approved slave owning to radical abolitionism. This portion of the North Carolina population contributed to the State’s relatively small slave population and ambivalent attitudes toward slavery and the Civil War. Quakers and Slavery in America documents changing attitudes and radical activism among Quakers chronologically, and includes an extensive index for reader navigation.
Finkelman, Paul. Fugitive Slaves. New York: Garland, 1989.
Volume six of the series Articles on American Slavery includes twenty-five articles from noted historians, republished from major journals and magazines. These articles provide nuanced and varied points of view about fugitive slaves, many of which are geographically focused. Others study the extradition of runaways and the politics of slave hunters, the social significance of runaway slaves and newly-free blacks in the North, and the Underground Railroad. Of particular interest to North Carolina scholars is Larry Gara’s “Friends and the Underground Railroad,” originally published in Quaker History. Quakers are an important part of North Carolina’s history and played key roles in the rise and fall of slavery in the South. The shift in Quaker attitudes about slavery is a fascinating area of study in its own right, and can be explored further in Drake’s Quakers and Slavery in America.
Finkelman, Paul. Southern Slavery at the State and Local Level. New York: Garland, 1989.
Volume seven of the series Articles on American Slavery includes nineteen articles that have “influenced our understanding about slavery.” Of particular interest to this project are Clement Eaton’s “Slave Hiring in the Upper South: A Step Toward Freedom,” which documents the changing practices of obtaining slave labor in the 1840’s and 1850’s from purchase to hire. Though the slaves being hired were still legally the property of their masters, the freedom to travel to other plantations and experience new environments and people inevitably provided opportunity for escape and signaled the downfall of slavery as an institution. John Franklin’s “The Enslavement of Free Negroes in North Carolina,” discusses free blacks who sought enslavement for a variety of reasons – a longstanding system of oppression chief among them. This practice set the stage for post-Civil War acquiescence to an oppressive system among newly freed slaves. Finally, Haliburton’s “Black Slave Control in the Cherokee Nation,” documents the cooperation of Carolina and Virginia Cherokee Indians with white slaveholders to return escaped slaves to their masters and sheds light on the dynamic between slaveholding tribes and their chattel.
Foster, Helen Bradley. New Raiments of Self: African American Clothing in the Antebellum South. Oxford: Berg, 1997.
Foster’s exhaustively researched work includes three appendices of terminology and technical elements of apparel which will prove useful to those deciphering the slave ads in this collection. For slaves, clothing represented a rare mode of self-expression and identity, despite their limited means for obtaining or making distinctive garments. The author explores the facets of ownership and dress in a historical context and includes a discussion of the way slave clothing has affected modern African American clothing trends as a reaction to European American traditions. This is the only work that exclusively studies the clothing of southern slaves.
Franklin, John Hope, and Loren Schweninger. Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Franklin and Schweninger explore the all aspects of runaway slave life in this volume, the most comprehensive monograph on runaway slaves. From circumstances of escape to criminal acts beyond escape, runaway slaves’ destinations to their recapture, this volume synthesizes runaway slave ads, narratives, and exhaustive data into a thorough portrait of runaway slave psychology, culture, and journeys within the larger context of legal and political ramifications of escape. The authors utilized runaway slave advertisements in newspapers as a primary source of research in addition to more typically-researched primary sources, such as plantation records and/or slave narratives. Franklin and Schweninger’s research expands on Freddie Parker’s work in Running for Freedom: Slave Runaways in North Carolina, 1775-1840. Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation is extensively indexed and appended with selected runaway slave advertisements, petitions to courts and legislatures, correspondence, and additional raw data. The late John Hope Franklin was a noted historian who published eighteen books, many of which are considered key texts in slave history and antebellum Southern history. Loren Schweninger (link to http://www.uncg.edu/his/docs/Schweninger_index.html) is a UNC-Greensboro professor of history whose works have also primarily focused on slave history.
Jacobs, Harriet A., and Jennifer Fleischner. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010.
Jacobs’ memoir has been hailed as the most important female slave narrative available. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl serves as the female counterpart to the overwhelmingly male voice of slavery narratives. It is not only key to understanding slavery from slaves’ perspectives but also a crucial work in the feminist movement. Jacobs details the physical and sexual exploitation of female slaves in the antebellum South, and provides an important first-person account in a time when women did not often have a voice. Harriet Jacobs was a slave in Edenton, owned by James Norcom, whose ad for another runaway slave, Derry, can be found in this collection (link to 09660201-1830-09-02-03). Fleischner offers contextual material to supplement Jacobs’ harrowing life story, as well as related documents including the advertisement for the capture of Harriet Jacobs, published in the American Beacon on July 4, 1835.
Jewett, Clayton E., and John O. Allen. Slavery in the South: A State-by-State History. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004.
This encyclopedic volume provides introductory information about each state’s history of slavery, including statistics, state history, slave culture, and slave codes. A timeline precedes the narrative text of each entry, and the history proceeds chronologically, from “The Origins of Slavery” through “Emancipation and Reconstruction” and ending with a short passage on “White Redemption and Jim Crow.” A short list of references and web sites is provided. This is an excellent first resource for those beginning to research slavery in North Carolina.
Kay, Marvin L. M., and Lorin L. Cary. Slavery in North Carolina, 1748-1775. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
The first comprehensive monograph about slavery in colonial North Carolina. Prior to its publication, slavery had been studied exhaustively in other southern colonies, but North Carolina had, for the most part, been neglected or studied only as part of the larger Upper South region. As Kay and Cary point out, this may be due in part to North Carolina’s late settlement or the fact that North Carolina contained relatively few slaves in the early 1700s. By the mid-eighteenth century, however, North Carolina had one of the fastest-growing slave populations, particularly in its coastal regions, and a majority of the new slaves were African-born. Kay and Cary cite the lack of cultural assimilation among slaves as a key reason for North Carolina’s differences among other southern colonies. Slaves embraced an insular culture, heavily informed by African heritage and systems of resistance. The authors note that, over time, slaves adopted aspects of their European masters’ culture and their native beliefs and worldviews became more diluted. The text is supplemented with five maps and just three figures, but the appendix includes 48 tables of demographics and statistics, including 10 tables specifically about runaway slaves. Researchers will find the text well-indexed for rapid information retrieval.
Pacheco, Josephine F. The Pearl: A Failed Slave Escape on the Potomac. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
Pacheco recounts one of the largest slave escape attempts in the United States. Though not a North Carolina slave escape, the story of two men smuggling seventy-six slaves aboard a schooner from Washington, D.C., to freedom in Pennsylvania, is fascinating and provides an excellent anecdotal history of the legal, political, and personal effects of slavery throughout the United States. The Pearl includes extensive references and indexing, but is intended to be read in full rather than referenced.
Parker, Freddie L. Running for Freedom: Slave Runaways in North Carolina, 1775-1840. New York: Garland Pub, 1993.
Running for Freedom covers post-Revolution slavery in North Carolina, through a careful study of quantifiable data collected from North Carolina runaway slave newspaper ads. The ads studied are the same as those featured in this digital collection; researchers will find the figures, maps, and tables included useful for understanding broad themes in the ads. Parker also outlines the conclusions about slave populations that he has drawn, which are an interesting contrast to Kay and Cary’s research on pre-Revolutionary North Carolina slaves (above). For example, Parker states that relatively few African-born slaves resided in North Carolina, as few ads mention African-born slaves. Kay & Cary, however, estimate that as many as two-thirds of pre-Revolutionary North Carolina slaves were African born. This indicates a change in slave economy and is a harbinger of a rapidly diluting slave culture. Researchers will be especially interested in the nine figures, four maps, and fifteen tables included throughout the book, easily found using the table of illustrations beginning on page ix.
Pyatt, Timothy D. Guide to African-American Documentary Resources in North Carolina. University of Virginia Press.
University of Virginia’s online directory is a comprehensive list of repositories in North Carolina with notable African-American documentary collections. The list includes links to collection descriptions and is an excellent starting place for researchers seeking manuscripts and photograph collections for primary source research. Some repositories, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Manuscripts Department, have digitized portions of their collection and finding aids, which will prove useful to long-distance researchers.
Rawick, George P. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, Volume 14 - North Carolina Narratives, Part 1. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1972.
Rawick, George P. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, Volume 14 - North Carolina Narratives, Part 2. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1972.
Each narrative contained within these volumes was prepared by the Federal Writers’ Project of The Works Progress Administration (WPA) for the State of North Carolina in 1937. This project included more than 2,000 interviews with former slaves in seventeen states. Most narratives include former slaves’ remembrances of what it was like when the Yankees came to the plantations where they were held. Stored for years in the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress, these interviews were compiled and organized into volumes by state. Each narrative is short, and printed as an exact replica of the original transcript, including the interviewer’s scribbled notes, and ex-slaves full names, ages, and addresses. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, North Carolina Narratives provides a compendium of startling first-hand views of slavery by those who lived it.
Rawick, George P. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, Volume 1 - From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1972.
Rawick’s introductory volume, From Sundown to Sunup, provides an ethnographic analysis of the narratives. In the supplement to this series (below), he states his objective for publishing these first-hand accounts of slavery as, “I wanted to publish as much material by those who had been slaves as could be found in order to bury the nonsensical, elitist, and racist notion that there was no way of locating Afro-American slaves’ accounts of their own experience.” (Rawick 1977, x)
Rawick, George P., Jan Hillegas, and Ken Lawrence. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography : Supplement, Series 1 : Volume 11: North Carolina and South Carolina Narratives. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Pub. Co, 1977.
Following his publication of The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography in 1974, George Rawick discovered hundreds of slave narratives that had been stored in many states’ archives, despite the fact that all WPA narratives were required to be sent to Library of Congress. Rawick surmised that these narratives had been deliberately withheld from Library of Congress, thus concealed from public access, by persons with an interest in shielding the Southern whites from scrutiny. To that end, Rawick also discovered multiple versions of narratives stored in Library of Congress, indicating an effort to rewrite the accounts so that slaveholders and others in the ruling class appeared more benign. Following these discoveries, Rawick published twelve volumes of supplementary material, including an introduction for each state. This volume includes both North Carolina and South Carolina, with only fourteen additional narratives in North Carolina. Most of the interviewees were born at the end of, or after, the era of slavery, but are useful for their contributions of African American folklore and stories of slavery that had been passed down from the previous generation.
Rodriguez, Junius P. Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2007.
This two-volume encyclopedia thoroughly covers incidents of slave uprising, forms of rebellion through self-expression (e.g. art, religion, etc.), important documents in the history of slave resistance, and much more. Though topics of interest to this project are covered, it is not limited to Southern American enslavement of Africans and their descendants. In order to facilitate reader access to topics of relevance, “A Guide to Related Topics” is included in addition to a list of entries. This guide lists entries by geography and subject. Additionally, a global timeline follows a detailed introduction. This is an excellent resource for those seeking short entries about specific aspects of rebellion and resistance.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In Motion: The African American Migration Experience, Runaway Journeys. New York Public Library.
Digital Schomburg’s In Motion: The African American Migration Experience, Runaway Journeys is an interactive multimedia digital library which combines intuitive design with compelling artifacts in order to give users an overview of the topic. This exhibit will be most useful for casual viewers or first-time researchers.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wilson Library. Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The University of North Carolina’s Southern Historical Collection is an immense assortment of artifacts from the American South beginning in the eighteenth century and continuing documentation through the present day. Holdings include diaries, journals, letters, correspondence, photographs, maps, drawings, ledgers, oral histories, moving images, albums, scrapbooks, and literary manuscripts. A few items from the collection have been digitized, but the vast majority of items is held at Wilson Library and is available there for research. Those interested in North Carolina slavery will find plantation journals, written and oral slave narratives, genealogical records, church records, photographs, and relevant correspondence. The University has been collecting manuscripts related to Southern History since 1844 and maintains important holdings from all Southern states. Those particularly interested in North Carolina may wish to search UNC’s North Carolina Collection (include link) for books, pamphlets, newspapers, microforms, maps, broadsides, and other resources documenting North Carolina’s history.