Category American Slavery

Runaway Slaves and “Country Marks”

Earlier today, a facebook friend asked me if I was knowledgeable about the history of runaway slaves. Of course, I said, that’s a topic I’ve been working on for about two years now. Ok, then, they asked further, what was in the meaning of the term “country marks” found in some runaway slave advertisements? I […]

Review of Richard Bell, Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home (Simon & Schuster, 2019)

In the summer of 1825, five free black boys were kidnapped in Philadelphia and sold as slaves in the South. Each had been lured to a ship at the harbor with promises of good pay to help unload fruit. The con man they followed was an African American, John Purnell, who earned high wages working […]

A Self-Lynching Slave or a lesson in textual criticism?

A peer-reviewer suggests I consult a certain digital history website. The website no longer exists. God damn digital humanities. Anyway, looking further at the guy who supposedly built a great website in 2018, I find this text from 1767 and an attempt at explaining it: Is he serious? Is this actually his interpretation (below) of […]

A Census Anomaly or a Large African American Migration in upstate New York?

North of Albany, along New York’s border with Vermont, Washington County formed in 1772, and grew quickly in its first decades. If the census is to be trusted, there appears to have been a large migration of free African Americans into and then out of the county between 1800 and 1820. Census records note that […]