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HirelingsAfrican American Workers and Free Labor in Early Maryland$

Jennifer Hull Dorsey

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801447785

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801447785.001.0001

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(p.61) 3 Family

Jennifer Hull Dorsey

Cornell University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how gradual manumission divided African American families between slavery and freedom, strategies for maintaining familial integrity across that divide, and free African Americans' advancement toward autonomous households. It also considers how manumitted African Americans assumed the responsibility for making their families whole, such as purchasing freedom for spouses, children, and other family members left behind in slavery. It describes the African American family as an economic unit, with family members, even in freedom, choosing to remain connected to one another. It shows that some families wanted to live in close proximity to their own family, a choice that could have facilitated cooperation and collaboration among family members.

Keywords:   manumission, African American families, slavery, freedom, free African Americans, autonomous households, manumitted African Americans, cooperation

Slavery broke Elizabeth Jacobs’s family. She was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but while still a child she was separated from her parents and siblings when a slaveholder took her to Chester, Pennsylvania. Her experience was commonplace for slaves in nineteenth-century Maryland. Slaveholders gifted, traded, bequeathed, bought, and sold slaves without regard for family connections. They divided spouses and separated children from their siblings and their parents. As a child and a slave, Elizabeth was powerless to protect herself from this violence. Only after she was manumitted did she have a chance to recover the family that was taken from her. Once she was legally free, Elizabeth left Pennsylvania and returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She married sometime after 1830, adopted her new husband’s surname (Wilson), and remained in Queen Anne’s County until at least 1848.

Historians of American Reconstruction have written extensively about the extraordinary efforts of former slaves to restore, reunite, and strengthen their families in the aftermath of the Civil War.1 The abolition (p.62) of slavery promised wholeness for African American families broken by slavery. By comparison, manumission offered no such assurance. Sometimes slaveholders in early republic Maryland manumitted entire families, but, more frequently, they manumitted individual slaves and divided family members between slavery and freedom. Before U.S. Emancipation the typical African American family on the Eastern Shore included manumitted slaves, slaves-for-life, term slaves, and freeborn African Americans.

Elizabeth Jacobs Wilson and other manumitted African Americans assumed the responsibility for making their families whole. Some manumitted people worked to purchase freedom for spouses, children, and other family members left behind in slavery. Sometimes they succeeded, but often they did not. Families also negotiated other arrangements with slaveholders that allowed for reunification without freedom. When all else failed, family members looked for other ways to show their connectedness. The careful choice of a surname, for example, served to remind everyone that while some in the family were slaves-for-life, others term slaves, and still others freed or freeborn, all were elements of the same whole. Maintaining familial integrity was a process that required cooperation among family members. Even children were expected to contribute what they could to sustain a family in freedom. Manumitted parents raised their freeborn children with a keen awareness of their obligation to care for and support grandparents, parents, and siblings. This expectation of familial cooperation or reciprocity was a distinct value of free African American families.

Early republic lawmakers who wrestled with the challenge of implementing emancipation schemes universally recognized that a slaveholder’s rights to property superseded the undefined human rights of slaves, but Americans were not unusual in this respect. In Spanish America the centuries-old custom of coartación required slaves to provide monetary compensation in exchange for legal freedom.2 Coartación, or gradual self-purchase, acknowledged both the slaveholder’s right to compensation and a slave’s right to purchase freedom. It had developed over centuries across the Spanish Empire in America, and by the middle of the nineteenth century it offered slaves and slaveholders an orderly method for achieving gradual, compensated emancipation. Courts set the price of freedom according to the slave’s worth, and after the appraisal the slaveholder and slave entered a legally binding agreement that allowed the slave time to (p.63) work toward his or her own purchase. Once set by a court-appointed assessor, a slave’s price of freedom could not be altered, and a slave whose worth had been determined by the court was thereafter identified as partially freed (coartado). As a partial slave, or a partial freedman, a coartado slave had legal sanction to sell his or her time to any employer for the purpose of raising money for freedom. Local authorities obliged masters to accept the coartado slave’s payments, and the slaves were assured manumission papers after making a final payment against the purchase price. It was a system that recognized the rights of masters, the rights of slaves, and the right of the state to arbitrate their competing claims.

As in Spanish America, early national Americans respected property rights first and human rights second. But in the United States gradual manu mission law evolved without any direction from the federal government, resulting in a patchwork of judicial and legislative schemes. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont ended slavery without compensating slaveholders, but Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island abolished slavery gradually and with economic compensation for slaveholders. Compensation came in the form of “term slavery” for the emancipated. Although “free” the newly emancipated were nevertheless compelled to serve their former masters for a predetermined number of years. In most states, then, emancipation was a transitional process from slavery to term slavery to African American freedom over a period of three generations. In Pennsylvania African American males born after 1780 were to serve as term slaves to age twenty-one and females to age eighteen.3 The New York emancipation followed the Pennsylvania model, incrementally freeing all children born to enslaved women after July 4, 1799. Males obtained freedom at twenty-eight and females at twenty-five. Similarly, in New Jersey emancipation called for term slavery for African American children born after 1804, requiring males to serve to age twenty-seven and females to age twenty-one.

Beyond defining eligibility for manumission in 1796, the Maryland legislature hardly regulated the implementation of gradual manumission at all. Manumission remained a wholly private affair between a slave and a slaveholder, and perhaps for that reason, it also remained a popular practice among Maryland slaveholders. Individual slaveholders had unlimited power to set the price for black freedom and, by extension, their own terms for compensation. Slaveholders could set manumission prices (p.64) according to market value, or not. They could require twenty-five years of service, or more. They could also rescind their offers without consequence. Edward Fenwick of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, frankly admitted in court that he promised to manumit his slave Michael “in order to exite an ambition in him to exert himself the more to pay your respondent the large sum of money your rispondent had purcased him for and to secure negro michaels fedility and obedience as a servant.”4 Fenwick’s conditions for manumission included $318 and an expectation that Michael would “become orderly obedient and subservient to my will and wishes.” For Michael, raising the money proved easier than acting obediently. Over five years Michael made five payments worth $218 to Fenwick. The final payment came from Charles Gardner, a neighbor who agreed to pay Michael’s debt to Fenwick in exchange for three years of service. Fenwick apparently accepted the deal, but when it came time to draft the manumission deed, he refused to do it, arguing that he accepted Gardner’s money as payment for a three-year hire, not a manumission deed. In 1833 Michael and Charles Gardner petitioned the county court to force Fenwick to issue the manumission deed, to which Fenwick responded that the litigation itself proved Michael’s insolence and therefore his ineligibility for freedom.

Although Maryland slaveholders enjoyed unlimited discretion in determining the price of African American freedom, a consensus emerged around the practice. First, an overwhelming majority of slaveholders obtained their economic compensation by delaying manumission. In his survey of more than two thousand Maryland manumission deeds, historian T. Stephen Whitman discovered that two-thirds of manumissions filed in rural counties delayed freedom to some established date.5 Typically, slaveholders delayed freedom until adulthood, and 31 percent required enslaved children to persist as slaves for sixteen to twenty years before obtaining their freedom. In fact, the modal age for immediate manumission was forty years for both sexes, indicating that slaveholders typically waited until male slaves had passed their prime as laborers or until female slaves had passed their childbearing years before manumitting them unconditionally.6 Fewer than 20 percent of slaveholders unconditionally liberated young people before they reached twenty years of age. Second, Maryland slaveholders routinely manumitted one generation of slaves while holding the next generation as either slaves-for-life or term slaves. For example, (p.65) Jacob Barnes required Teney to serve twenty-one years as a slave before she received a manumission deed, and further stipulated that her children and grandchildren (“her issue and her issue’s issue”) would each provide twenty-five years of service before earning freedom.7 Similarly, Ann Reese’s mother was manumitted in 1798, but Ann and her siblings remained slaves until they turned twenty-five.8 Slaveholder Impey Dawson unconditionally manumitted Peter and Rose Chesnor as well as Eve Button by his last will and testament, but he also deeded the Chesnors’ five children and Eve’s three children to his brother, George Dawson.9

Slaveholders routinely separated parents from their enslaved children if it served their economic interests to do so. By 1809 the Maryland legislature sanctioned the practice with a statute that permitted probate courts to default to slavery for the unborn when a testamentary manumission did not explicitly extended freedom to the unborn. Thereafter, slaveholders who sincerely intended to liberate their slaves needed to document how far that gift of freedom extended. Solomon Holton, for example, explicated in his testamentary manumission of Mincy that he granted freedom to Mincy, her two children, any additional children she might give birth to after his death, and Mincy’s grandchildren (“the increase of the daughter of the said Mincy”) on the death of his wife.10

One obvious outcome of the Maryland system of compensated manumission was the division of family members between slavery and freedom. In other words, freedom fractured families. One spouse obtained freedom while the other waited. Parents escaped, but children remained enslaved. Among those born into a fractured family was William Green of Talbot County. His family had been enslaved “for many generations,” but early in the nineteenth century, Mary Goldsborough manumitted his mother’s family. William was not freed, but his legal status changed from slave-for-life to term slave, and he expected to obtain his freedom after twenty-five years of service. Although William remained in his mother’s care for the first eight years of his life, he recognized that his continued enslavement still separated him from her. He remembered years later that “having a great many relations who were almost all free, and I being a slave, made me very unhappy, and every day I became more and more determined to be free or die in the attempt.”11 As his account suggests, those left behind in slavery alternated between feelings of relief and resentment: relief that others had escaped and resentment that their own time had not yet come.

(p.66) Equally tragic, the practice of delayed and compensated manumission sanctioned the notion that white freedom was inalienable, black freedom was a commodity, and like other commodities, its value was determined by market forces beyond the control of any single consumer. Inevitably, African American spouses and parents who wanted to buy a loved one from slavery competed against other purchasers with significantly more capital. In the 1780s and 1790s a freedman’s chief competitors at the auction block were small planters on either side of Chesapeake Bay as well as Baltimore merchants. By 1815 a freedman who aspired to purchase his wife or children competed against a professional slave trader charged with buying up enslaved laborers to work in the cotton and cane fields of the Deep South.12

In either case, any African American who wanted to buy a loved one from slavery had to develop a strategy to raise the necessary capital, and these fund-raising campaigns reflect the ingenuity and resourcefulness of free African Americans determined to unite their families in freedom. Some applied their hard-earned wages. Some borrowed money or took up donations. Others bartered goods, and still others sold their free labor for a term of years. Most mixed multiple methods to come up with the required cash for a purchase as quickly as possible. For example, in 1795 George Kersey paid Robert Lambdin approximately £20 Maryland money and one hundred yards of woven linen and woolen cloth for his wife, Martha, and their children, John and Margaret.13 By comparison, Richard Bowlin borrowed money from wealthy neighbors and worked for wages on several plantations to purchase his seven-year-old son, Asberry, for £30 from James Earle Jr. He worked for Earle cutting wood and wheat, securing hay, and laboring in Earle’s “lot” for five days. He transferred credits that he had earned working for two other planters to his account with Earle, borrowed money from at least one neighborhood planter, and made several cash payments. Two years after rescuing Asberry, Bowlin succeeded in raising another £18 and fifteen shillings Maryland currency to pay for his daughter, Maria.14

In addition to borrowing money from sympathetic white neighbors, African Americans sought monetary support from their fellow coreligionists. Noah Davis of Virginia and Edmund Kelley of Tennessee were two former slaves who traveled to Baltimore and Massachusetts respectively to solicit funds from sister congregations. Edmund Kelley, an ordained (p.67) Baptist minister, received funds from his congregation in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to rescue his wife and children from slavery. Noah Davis convinced slaveholder Dr. F. Patten to permit him to purchase himself for $500 and “to let me travel and find friends, who would give me the money.”15 He earned $150 locally, another $150 from friends in “northern cities,” and more in Baltimore, where “white Baptist friends” had offered him a position as a missionary to the African American community in Baltimore.16 Davis was surprised to discover that some white people would not donate money “as it was against their principle to give money, to buy slaves,” but he was undeterred. Seeing the lengths to which Davis was willing to go to purchase his own freedom, “the rich widow lady” who claimed Davis’s wife and children, agreed to sell his wife and two youngest children to him for $800. While regretting the prospect of more time away from his wife and children, Davis agreed to the purchase price and over the next decade secured enough funds from friends in Fredericksburg, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; and Philadelphia to buy his wife and five of their seven children.17

Black freedom was expensive, and a spouse or parent could spend a lifetime laboring for the price of freedom and never succeed in buying the prized commodity. To improve their chances, families had to develop strategies for buying loved ones at favorable rates.18 Parents could more easily buy freedom for young children, the elderly, or any family member who was a term slave, but the cost of buying an adolescent slave-for-life could be prohibitive because of the heavy demand for young adults in the nation’s cotton fields. The disparity in cost was painfully evident to David Barnett who paid $300 for his fifteen-year-old son in 1824 but just $40 for his four-year-old daughter in 1825.19 In response to these economic realities, many manumitted African Americans bought their youngest children and even their elderly parents and then waited for their oldest children to age out of their prime worth. Free African Americans knew that the longer a child avoided sale the more likely his market value would eventually drop and freedom by purchase would again be an affordable option. G. W. Offley’s memory of how his own family came into freedom suggests that his parents followed this strategy. First, the Offleys raised funds to buy their daughter, whom they knew could be purchased cheaply because she was a term slave and therefore ineligible for sale out of state. Next, the Offleys purchased Greensbury’s paternal grandmother. Her old age made (p.68) her affordable, and Greenbury’s parents desired to exempt “her from hard servitude in her old age.”20 Others shared the Offleys’ aspiration to relieve their elders from hard labor. In 1830 Henrietta Ridout purchased a forty-seven-year-old man (James Toomey) for $20, and in 1833 Rachel Coursey bought forty-five-year-old Jim Coursey for $15.

In the meantime, the Offleys’ enslaved son waited the longest for freedom, but the wait was consistent with a regional trend of boys lingering in slavery or term slavery until their age made them affordable again.21 It was a gamble that sent the Offleys and other parents scrambling to purchase a child at a public auction. In his memoir Noah Davis recounts the anxiety he felt as a parent waiting to free an adolescent. Davis knew that as his children matured they needed “my watchful care, more now than at any other time,” but in order to raise the money for their manumission, he went to work in Baltimore, while his children remained enslaved in Fredericksburg. Davis’s worst fears were nearly realized in 1858 when three of his children were put on the auction block. He rushed home from Baltimore too late to stop the sale, but he was able to negotiate their “redemption” for $2,120.22 Slaveholders knew parents’ fears and profited from them, demanding more money or more labor in less time. When former slave Edmund Kelley of Tennessee attempted to renegotiate the price of his wife and freedom for his four children, slaveholder James Walker responded that the price was nonnegotiable and that Kelley should pay quickly, as “I could get more money for them, and they are daily increasing in value.” He also warned that if Kelley could not raise the money “without delay,” then he should stop writing to his wife and children, “raising in them hopes that cannot be realized.”23

But what if a slaveholder would not sell at any price? What of those families who remained divided between slavery and freedom notwithstanding their best efforts to buy freedom for everyone? In these cases, African American families developed alternative strategies for maintaining familial integrity. One alternative was a negotiated arrangement that gave the free family possession of their enslaved family members for a term of years. For example, although he was a slave, William Green’s manumitted mother arranged for him to stay in her care until he was eight years old. Similarly, Nanny Occomy took possession of her three-year-old grandson by convincing slaveholder Sarah Hollyday to gift him to her for twenty-one years. The arrangement did not free the boy, but it guaranteed that he would remain in his grandmother’s custody for the remainder of her (p.69) life. Sarah Hollyday made a similar arrangement with a freedman named Jack, who sought custody of his daughter Maria.24 Finally, Peter and Rose Chesnor and Eve Button brokered comparable agreements with George Dawson to recover their enslaved children. Slaveholder Impey Dawson had broken the Chesnor and Button families when he manumitted these parents by last will and testament while bequeathing their enslaved children to his brother. George was unwilling to part with the children at the time, but in 1801 he consented in writing to transfer them back to their respective parents at the time of his death.25

Time and again, on the Eastern Shore and elsewhere, newly manumitted African Americans assumed the responsibility of rescuing those left behind. African Americans bartered and brokered to free wives, children, and elders from slavery. Even when families could not be united in freedom, African Americans still bartered and brokered for unification. In slavery and freedom, familial integrity was the ultimate goal, but even when freedom and reunification were impossible, families took steps to demonstrate their connectedness despite some being free and some enslaved. Surnames, for example, identified free family members’ connection to enslaved family members across time and space. Scholars who have explored the meaning of free African Americans’ surnames generally emphasize the personal and political significance that former slaves attached to these new names. Choosing a surname could have been a significant first step in the process of healing for many former slaves. Historians have concluded that since few free African Americans adopted the surname of their former master, and many defiantly chose names like “Newman” or “Freeman,” surnames signified a break from the enslaved past and a transition into a free future. In some cases former slaves may have taken their surname from a previous slaveholder, or the slaveholder of an earlier generation of enslaved family members, because “taking the name of an earlier owner was a way for slaves to recapture their history, to establish a link to a family of origins, and to forge a social identity separate from that of a successive owner.”26 In the very well-documented experience of free African Americans in early national Philadelphia, many men and women deliberately adopted inconspicuous surnames like “Jackson,” “Moore,” or “Morgan,” suggesting a preference for anonymity, but many others created original surnames such as “Dancer,” “Gooseberry,” and “Paulk,” names that had no significance to anyone other than the bearer.27

(p.70) Surnames also served a more ordinary purpose for many families. In the case of the extended Haskins family in Talbot County, a common surname clarified connections among enslaved and free family members. Between 1807 and 1832 the clerks of the Talbot County Court issued freedom certificates to fifty-two men and women manumitted by William Hindman. Forty-five of these former slaves had surnames, but not one adopted the surname Hindman. Caroline (b. 1768), Anna (b. 1801), and Joe (b. 1802) all claimed the surname Haskins, their common surname indicating that they were related to one another.28 Even more significant is the likelihood that they were related to some, if not all, of the nine other manumitted African Americans with the surname Haskins who applied for freedom certificates in Talbot County.

In 1814 the Haskins family included multiple generations of men and women in slavery and various stages of freedom. Caroline Haskins, who was born in 1768, was the eldest, and it is likely that all of the manumitted family members who applied for certificates were connected to her. How she was connected to these other family members is unknown, but one obvious possibility is that Caroline was mother to all of these individuals. It is highly probable that she was mother to Anna and Joe, who were also manumitted by William Hindman. Whatever her relationship with the other members of the Haskins family, it is clear that slavery had separated them from one another. The nine members of the Haskins family had been divided among seven different slaveholders, who presumably lived in seven different locations. All the Haskins men and women would eventually achieve freedom, but freedom came incrementally. Although Caroline Haskins was the eldest of her kin group, four other members of the Haskins family, all manumitted by Philip Rigby and Henry Bowdle, applied for freedom certificates before she did. Moreover, six other family members remained slaves at the time that Caroline received her own certificate in 1814.

Those Haskins family members who made the transition from slavery to freedom probably devoted their attention to the unique concerns of freedmen, including securing work and housing. This focus on sustaining oneself in freedom undoubtedly separated the free Haskins physically, if not emotionally, from their enslaved kin. Geography may have further fractured the family. Violet Haskins, for example, reported to the county clerk who issued her freedom certificate that she was born in Caroline (p.71) County but raised in Talbot, suggesting that the Haskins of Talbot County had family in Caroline County. How many others remained in Caroline? Clearly, for Violet and the other members of her kinship group, the Haskins surname was more than an adornment. It was a meaningful way for Violet to demonstrate to everyone she encountered that she was connected to other members of the Haskins family, enslaved and free, across the generations and across the Eastern Shore.

The literature on the nineteenth-century African American family in slavery and freedom is vast, but scholars from diverse fields agree that enslaved African Americans defined family broadly. Slaves identified family members as those connected to them by blood and by union, but also those connected to them by affection, obligation, and trust. This inclusive family structure developed partly in response to the threat that the domestic slave trade posed to the nuclear African American family. A young wife who lost her husband to the slave trade would receive sisterly comfort from another wife. A mother who lost her children to a slaveholder’s distant heirs would adopt the children of another mother sold to a distant plantation. An elderly parent who lost an adult child to lethal or crippling violence at the hands of an overseer could expect material and emotional comfort from the adult children of other elders. In other words, the vulnerability of the nuclear family to violence and forced separation encouraged the incorporation of others into a family.

It had not always been this way. On the eve of the American Revolution, the African American family in Maryland was secure and reliable. Nuclear family was the key institution in the life of a slave even though it was still a young institution. Imbalanced sex ratios, high mortality rates, frequent dislocations, psychological disorientation, and poor physical health in the seventeenth century had prevented the first African slaves from forming families. But by the 1730s and 1740s American-born slaves successfully established an independent social life and then regular families. Slaves entered into committed love relationships of their own choosing. They chose to bear children, and in some cases, they chose to end pregnancies. Most important, they lived in autonomous households often at the encouragement of a slaveholder who expected that a married slave with a happy domestic life would be a content worker. By the 1750s, this experience was normative in Maryland. By 1775 nearly as many African Americans as whites lived in two-parent households, and even those enslaved men and (p.72) women who were separated across quarters or plantations expected slaveholders to accommodate their familial arrangements by allowing visitation with spouses, children, or elders.29 Young African Americans who came of age in the 1760s and 1770s could expect to marry, raise children, and enjoy a domestic life. Slaveholders who did not meet these expectations could anticipate recurring episodes of running away.

Only in the nineteenth century and in response to the threat that the domestic slave trade posed to the standard nuclear African American family did a broader definition of family emerge. The more inclusive family structure was largely a defensive measure. It was a supplementary structure meant to support the nuclear family, not replace it, and some African Americans never accepted the more inclusive definition of family. Frederick Douglass, for example, refuted the notion that a nuclear family, once broken, could be either mended or reconstituted with supplemental kin. Like countless other enslaved children, Douglass was separated from his mother as an infant, and notwithstanding his mother’s best efforts to build a relationship with him, he never bonded with her. He loved his grandparents as if they were his birth parents, and it was in their home that he learned “the notions of family, and the reciprocal duties and benefits of the relation.” He did not believe that children placed in the care of “strangers, who have no care for them apart from the wishes of their masters,” really experienced a family life or learned the value of family.30 When the slaveholder separated Douglass from his grandparents, he was inconsolable. He did not accept any other African American woman as a substitute mother (not even his biological mother), and the one woman actually charged with his care, Aunt Katy, certainly did not extend maternal affection to Douglass or any other enslaved children to whom she was not related.

African Americans prioritized their commitments to nuclear family, members of the extended family, and those friends who were selectively incorporated into their families. After all, those family members identified by historians as “fictive kin” could only do so much. The young wife who lost her husband to the slave trade, for example, may have welcomed the sisterly comfort that came from a peer wife, but she would not have looked to the broader familial network for a new husband. In the nineteenth century African Americans remained committed to the standard nuclear African American family structure that had emerged at the end of the eighteenth century despite the increased likelihood of separation. (p.73) They still entered marriage with the expectation that it would be a lifetime union, and they expected sexual fidelity and collaboration in child rearing. Widows rarely remarried, and those women widowed by the slave trade mourned the loss of a spouse for years.

This commitment to the standard nuclear African American family structure is manifest in the structure of free families in early national Maryland. Freedom had emboldened the manumitted to rebuild their nuclear families as autonomous households. African Americans wanted to ransom their parents, wives, and children from slaveholders, and, just as important, they wanted to move them off of the plantations that were a source of unquantifiable suffering. Census information taken from across the region testifies to free African Americans’ unwillingness to reside on slaveholders’ plantations even to be near their enslaved loved ones. In 1810, 25 percent of Queen Anne’s County slaveholders had both slaves and free African Americans in their households. Ten years later just 10 percent of white households living there included both slaves and free African Americans. By comparison, 31 percent of the free African Americans of Loudon County, Virginia, lived in white households in 1810, but by 1830, only 18 percent did. In Delaware 76 percent of free African Americans lived in all-black households as early as 1820.31

G. W. Offley’s recollection of his own parents’ transition from slavery to freedom illustrates the importance that manumitted African Americans placed on reconstituting their families in autonomous households. While his grandparents had been slaves-for-life, Offley’s parents and his siblings escaped slavery in intervals. The family’s freedom originated with Offley’s father, a man who apparently acquired his freedom in the 1790s. In spite of his status as a freedman, he married an enslaved woman, and their young family grew steadily to include at least four enslaved children. At the death of her owner, Offley’s mother was manumitted, but the testamentary manumission that provided for her immediate and unconditional release from slavery did not extend this gift to any of her children. Instead, her master gifted the three oldest children to serve his heirs for a term of twenty-five years. Worse still, the will did not include any provisions to free the Offleys’ youngest son, thereby condemning him to a lifetime of slavery. In the beginning, the Offleys simply adapted their household arrangements to be near their enslaved children. Offley’s mother stayed on the plantation with her children, while his father took up residence (p.74) elsewhere. G. W. Offley believed that the slaveholders did not want his father in residence, but they did want “to have mother and father to work for them,” and so holding all or even some of the children guaranteed their acquiescence. But Offley’s father lost patience with the separation, and so he offered to buy his children. At first the slaveholders refused, arguing that they “feared the children would suffer” if turned over to their impoverished parents. In time the Offleys successfully purchased their children and moved their large family into a rented house.

The 1832 Census of Negroes indicates that most free African Americans shared the Offleys’ ambition to move their free family members into autonomous households. The legislature authorized the census to assist the Maryland State Colonization Society in its plan to export free African Americans to West Africa and the Caribbean.32 County sheriffs recorded the names, sexes, and ages of all free African Americans within their jurisdiction, including those men and women who lived in white households. What is remarkable about the 1832 Census of Negroes is that it provides a glimpse of free African Americans’ family structure in rural Maryland. In the case of Queen Anne’s County, the census takers recorded information in two books: one for men and boys, another for women and girls, a format that hides both residence groups and family groups. In Talbot County, however, the census takers grouped their subjects by household. The census includes the name, sex, and age of 1,890 free African Americans. Remarkably, 85 percent of the people listed in the census lived in free black households that included two or more free African Americans. Altogether, 1,611 free men, women, and children lived in 340 households headed by free African Americans over twenty-one years of age. Free men headed 217 households that together included a total of 1,078 men, women, and children, 57 percent of the county’s 1,832 free black population. Free women headed 36 percent of the households included in the 1832 census, and together those households comprised 533 men, women, and children, 28 percent of the 1832 free black population.

In Talbot County the median free African American household included six people, but there were a number of significantly larger households. In fact, 60 percent of the free African Americans who lived in female-headed households shared their homes with six or more people. Certainly the large households of eight, ten, or twelve people included some nuclear families (parents and children), but they also may have included members of the (p.75) extended family, including grandparents, in-laws, and cousins. Some of the largest households, like the Nicols-Howard household, included two nuclear families. In 1832, fifty-year-old Greenbury Nicols headed a household of ten people. His family included his thirty-year-old daughter, Anna Howard; her husband, Perry Howard; and their four children, Harriet (12), Ann (8), Elijah (6), and Frisby Howard (6 months). Because the census taker listed Anna as the oldest female living in the house, Greenbury may have been a widower. He may have also been the single father of three young children: Emily (16), Elizabeth (14), and William Nicols (6).33 Although it is possible that Anna Nicols never left her father’s household, it is equally possible that when she married Perry Howard, she and her new husband established their own home but returned to her father’s house at a later time for personal or economic reasons. One possibility is that she and her family joined Greenbury Nicols after his wife’s death in order to assist him with the care of his youngest children, especially six-year-old William.

One outcome of this steady movement of free African American families into autonomous households was a baby boom. In 1800 the overwhelming majority of free African Americans in Maryland had acquired their freedom through the legal process of manumission, but by 1820 natural increase factored more prominently than manumission in maintaining and increasing the free African American population on the Eastern Shore. In 1820, 43 percent of free African Americans in Talbot County and 41 percent of free African Americans in Queen Anne’s County were children under fourteen. In Talbot County these children outnumbered adults between the ages of twenty-six and forty-five by a margin of two to one. In 1830 there were twice as many children under ten as there were young adults between twenty-four and thirty-six in both Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. When we compare the free African American populations of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Talbot County, and Queen Anne’s County, these young freeborn African Americans of the rural Eastern Shore stand out. In Baltimore the ratio of free black adults to children was nearly equal in 1820. Thirty-four percent of African Americans in Baltimore were children under fourteen, and 27 percent were adults. Ten years later, children under age ten made up 24 percent of the population, and adults between the ages of twenty-four and thirty-six made up 23 percent of the population. In Philadelphia free black adults outnumbered children in both 1820 (p.76) and 1830. In 1830 the 2,007 free children listed in the city census made up only 20 percent of the free African American population, compared with men and women between twenty-four and thirty-six, who made up 30 percent of it.34

Legal freedom and autonomous households provided the foundations for a secure domestic life. Free African Americans living in autonomous households in largely free African American neighborhoods now had the opportunity to restructure their domestic lives. In particular, free parents could reinvent their relationships with their manumitted and freeborn children. Enslaved parents struggled against exploitive and violent slaveholders to meet the physical and emotional needs of their children. Free parents still struggled to meet their children’s material needs, but freedom had also empowered mothers and fathers, who jealously guarded their parental prerogative. G. W. Offley’s mother confessed that when she struggled to feed her eight children “she often would think of her old master’s kitchen and wish for some of the good victuals she had given to the poor whites and the field slaves,” but she also fiercely defended her parental rights when her former masters charged that her children would suffer in her care.35 If the parental obligations periodically overwhelmed her, Offley also trusted that the collective efforts of her family would sustain them in freedom and autonomy. She could rely on her free husband, who worked for wages, a free mother-in-law, who probably assisted with domestic chores, and several children, whom she likely expected would work in the house or in the fields for wages.

Family members worked for the benefit of the familial unit, and according to one anthropologist, this expectation of cooperation among family members was characteristic of African American families on the Eastern Shore well into the early twentieth century. Rural African Americans “cooperated and expected cooperation (assistance, sharing, aid, support, etc.) on various occasions and in a range of activities” from family members within the same home and those family members dispersed throughout the larger community.36 This expectation of cooperation, or what Frederick Douglass called “the reciprocal duties and benefits of relation,” was a distinctive value of free African American families, taught in the home, and modeled in parent-child relationships through the generations.

So compelling was the reciprocity principal that it may have determined where free African American families settled in Talbot County. (p.77) Talbot County had distinct free African American neighborhoods by 1832 (see chapter 5). Talbot tax assessment records include the addresses of 259 of the 645 free African Americans (40%) who owned or leased property between 1798 and 1832, and 32 percent of the 259 propertied freedmen owned or leased property in Easton or the villages of Trappe and Hole-in-the-Wall. Not surprisingly, the smallest number of free black property owners lived in Easton, where property values were nearly twice as high as in other towns. The village of Trappe, ten miles south of Easton, attracted the largest settlement of free African American households. Between 1798 and 1832, at least 13 percent of free black property owners in Talbot County lived in Trappe. Hole-in-the-Wall, adjacent to Trappe, claimed 11 percent of the free black property owners in Talbot.37

Looking closer at where free African American families settled, it is evident that some families not only wanted to live in African American neighborhoods, but they wanted to live in close proximity to their own family: a choice that probably facilitated cooperation and collaboration among family members. Such is the case of the Brooks family, which had lived freely in Talbot County since 1792 when Grace Brooks acquired a lifetime lease for a half-acre lot south of Easton. Grace assumed the lease from Henry Nicols, but Ned Brooks appeared in the 1800 census as the head of their household.38 By 1813 Ned and Grace had disappeared from the tax records, but a new member of the Brooks family, Hannah Brooks, had acquired two acres of “Bozman’s Addition” in Hole-in-the-Wall.39 Hannah’s lot was more than twice as large as the lot that Grace claimed. Perhaps Grace, who held property for more than twelve years in the same area, facilitated Hannah’s acquisition of land, or perhaps it is an extension of the same lot. Either way the settlement of these two women in the same village seems more deliberate than coincidental.

After 1813 at least two more women with connections to the Brooks family settled in Hole-in-the-Wall. In 1817 Hannah continued to reside at her two-acre lot, and Amy Brooks, another manumitted slave, acquired one acre with a simple log house and a stable.40 In 1817 Amy was about thirty-five, and she was the mother of at least two children, Lucretia (8) and David (10). It seems that her children’s father did not live with her consistently, as the tax assessments and the 1832 census repeatedly listed Amy Brooks as the head of her household. Perhaps her husband was a slave, a migrant freedman, or a white man, but whatever the case, Amy (p.78) Brooks must have depended on the assistance, sharing, aid, and support of other Brooks women to maintain her household over the next fifteen years.41 Finally, there was Nelly Brooks, a spinster who did not own property but lived with freed woman Lydia Hamilton, who owned four acres in Hole-in-the-Wall.42 Nelly Brooks may have been a tenant at Lydia’s home, or she may have been a family member. Perhaps Lydia Hamilton, wife of Murray Hamilton, was formerly Lydia Brooks, and she and Nelly were sisters.

While parents and other adults modeled the reciprocity principle for young African Americans in their communities and in their homes, children likely made their first contributions to the family when they went to work outside the home. On the Eastern Shore, as in other agricultural societies, children were a joy, a responsibility, and an economic resource. As chapter 1 showed, children commonly worked with their parents during the harvest season. But parents did more than bring their children to work: they also sought out separate employment opportunities for their children. In 1817, when he was just nine years old, G. W. Offley was hired out by his father to a Queen Anne’s County employer on a contract for four years. Offley’s work was critical to the family’s dream of maintaining an autonomous household, since his father applied his son’s wages “to pay his house rent.” Offley further remembered that from that first contract until he was twenty-one years old he “never received one dollar of wages,” not because he was not paid, but because his parents collected his wages.43 Both Offley and his white employers accepted that it was his parents’ prerogative to set the terms of his employment.

Offley’s experience was commonplace. A survey of labor contracts negotiated between African American parents and white employers and recorded with the Talbot County Court illustrates that African American parents regularly collected their children’s wages. Between 1808 and 1810, and 1822 and 1828, twenty-three African American parents consented to their children’s indenture to a white employer, and in all of these instances parents chose when their children went to work, for whom, and at what price. In one significant instance James Dorsey, father of sixteen-year-old Charles Dorsey, bound his son to Peter Edmondson in 1810 on the condition that Edmondson pay him sixty dollars “in consideration of the faithful services and labour to be done and performed by the said Charles.”44 The (p.79) payment was made to the parents, not to the apprentice, and more significantly Edmondson agreed to pay James Dorsey up front, not as “freedom dues.” Clearly, James Dorsey and Peter Edmondson had determined the market value of five years of labor, and Dorsey, to his credit, demanded that payment in advance. In 1810 the Dorsey-Edmondson contract was unusual in its detail, but by the 1850s, African American parents who recorded these child labor contracts routinely explicated their expectations for payment. The apprenticeship contracts that Charlotte Hemsley negotiated for two of her children were typical. In 1855 she negotiated a contract that required Levi Dukes to make four annual payments that amounted to $150 for seventeen-year-old Charles, her oldest child. For her second child, fifteen-year-old Thomas, Charlotte would receive a total of $195 over the six years of his apprenticeship.45

Parents may have bound their children to labor out of economic necessity, but they also negotiated labor contracts that extended some advantages to their children. In a way, they used contract labor to fulfill their parental obligations to their children. Some parents, for example, used the labor contract to obtain more clothing or an education for their children. In 1809 freedman Ely included a provision in his seven-year-old son Henry’s labor contract that required his son’s employers, Matthew and Elizabeth Green-tree, to teach Henry to read and write before his term expired in 1823.46 In at least one case, free parents used a labor contract to document the gradual manumission that they had negotiated on behalf of their children. When Charles and Myrtilla Peck indentured their eleven-year-old son to Thomas Bennet as a house waiter in 1823, Charles affirmed that “it is my earnest wish that my son Charles Peck who at the late Court of Talbot County obtained his freedom from you should remain with you and be bound to serve you until he arrives at the age of twenty one years.” Peck’s statement also revealed his expectations of Bennet as temporary master of his child. He stated that he “had no hesitation in giving the above as he knows you will treat his child well.”47 In all of these cases families that received money or material goods in exchange for their child’s labor inevitably secured a patronage relationship with a white planter.

G. W. Offley accepted his responsibilities to his parents and their household, but, as an adolescent, he also looked for opportunities to exercise some independence from his father’s direction. When he was sixteen years old, Offley began accepting contracts for wood chopping. He charged fifty (p.80) cents per cord and even “hired slaves to chop for me nights, when the moon shone bright.”48 According to his memoir, Offley expected that he would be free from this financial obligation to his family when he reached twenty-one, but he also worried about how his parents would react to his claim for independence. Offley remembered that in 1829 his parents could not agree if their son was twenty or twenty-one years old. His memory of the birthday debate makes clear that age mattered because his father would not release him from his obligations to their household before he turned twenty-one. To settle the dispute and speed up his independence Offley visited his manumitted mother’s former masters, who confirmed that he was twenty-one years old in 1829. When he reported his findings to his parents, Offley recalled that his father responded: “Then you are free from me.” Free though he may have been, Offley nevertheless remained in Queen Anne’s County for another year to earn enough money to pay his father the equivalent of “one year’s work to buy him a horse.”49 But soon after, Offley joined the steady stream of young African Americans who each year took to the roads and the waterways and headed for Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other parts north and west.

Of course G. W. Offley’s freedom from financial obligation came with a price. In leaving his family and eventually the Eastern Shore, he gave up the immediate economic benefits that came from this tradition of familial reciprocity. He could not expect that his parents or siblings would contribute money or labor to help start or support his own autonomous household. Moreover, it could take generations for Offley to recreate these familial networks in a new community. One explanation for why Offley and so many other rural migrants gravitated to African American churches in the cities is that these churches offered their communicants some of the aid and assistance that traditionally came from families. Beginning in the 1780s and 1790s, African American leaders in Philadelphia saw the need for institutions that offered spiritual comfort as well as the material and emotional support that African Americans traditionally received within families. In early national Philadelphia, African Americans could receive food and clothing and other forms of assistance from dozens of different mutual aid associations, including, among others, the Free African Society of Philadelphia (1787), the Female Benevolent Society of St. Thomas (1793), the African Friendly Society of St. Thomas (1795), and the Daughters for the County Angola Beneficial Association (1808).50 Perhaps even (p.81) more important than material aid, the mutual aid societies offered newcomers to the city the emotional support that they would have expected from family members. In Philadelphia and Baltimore, where slavery and African American mobility had “loosened the traditional bonds of family,” mutual aid societies often functioned like an extended family. The leadership extended parental-like authority over the members, and elder members sometimes acted like parents in their interactions with young people. At least one mutual aid society, the Free African Society, advised and counseled young couples considering marriage. The society devised proceedings for courtship and marriage that included an organizing committee to seek the permission of parents, family, and friends of the couple that intended to marry. Presumably, when family could not be contacted, the committee gave its blessing in their stead.51

What little we know about G. W. Offley’s own ministry among African American Methodists suggests that even in his eagerness to blaze his own trail, he carried his Eastern Shore values of family, autonomy, and reciprocity with him. He spent the bulk of his career assisting free African Americans in their ambition to have autonomous institutions. He settled in Hartford, Connecticut, but beginning in 1847 he played a critical role in the establishment of the AME Zion church in Worcester, Massachusetts. He raised money from within the African American and Native American communities, helped furbish the site, and solicited monetary support from the white elite in Worcester. He also assisted in the organization of the Female Mutual Aid Society in the 1850s. After the emancipation of 1865 he returned to Maryland on a fact-finding mission for the AME Zion to determine the condition of emancipated slaves. And in 1866 he undertook a speaking tour to solicit funds for missionary work in postwar Maryland. When Offley died in 1896, his adopted home of New Bedford, Massachusetts, celebrated not only his high-profile work with the AME Zion, but his less conspicuous efforts to assist African Americans in achieving autonomy. His obituary noted that he “advocated strongly the advisability of colored people having homes for themselves, and through his liberality and help many people in this city were enabled to make homes for themselves.”52


(1.) See, for example, Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976); Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985); Wilma King, Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); Ira Berlin and Leslie S. Rowland, Families and Freedom: A Documentary History of African-American Kinship in the Civil War Era (New York: New Press, 1997); Leslie A. Schwalm, A Hard Fight for We: Women’s Transition from Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997); and Wilma Dunaway, The African American Family in Slavery and Emancipation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(2.) For a brief history of coartación, see Alejandro de la Fuente, “Slaves and the Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba: Coartación and Papel,” Hispanic American Historical Review 87 (2007): 659–92.

(3.) Notwithstanding the terms of the Pennsylvania Act of Abolition, approximately 67% of the male term slaves and 75% of the female term slaves in Philadelphia were released from slavery after they reached twenty-six years of age. Gary Nash and Jean R. Soderlund, Freedom by Degrees: Emancipation in Pennsylvania and Its Aftermath (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 164–65.

(4.) Petition of Charles L. Gardiner [Gardner] to the County Court, St. Mary’s County, Maryland, May 20, 1833, Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series 2: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1777–1867, part B (Maryland), reel 5, frame 0778.

(5.) T. Stephan Whitman, The Price of Freedom: Slavery and Manumission in Baltimore and Early National Maryland (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 96. Historian Jessica Millward found that 83% of the manumission deeds filed in Anne Arundel County between 1785 and 1808 similarly required a term of service before freedom. See Millward, “‘A Choice Parcel of Country Born’: African Americans and the Transition to Freedom in Maryland, 1770–1840” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2003), 202.

(7.) Talbot County Register of Wills (Certificates of Freedom), MSA C1842–2, Elisha, 1827, p. 116.

(8.) Talbot County Register of Wills (Certificates of Freedom), MSA C1842–2, Anne Reese, 1837, pp. 188–89.

(9.) Talbot County Court (Land Records) 1800–1802, MSA C1880–39, George Dawson to Peter and Rose Chesnor, 1801, p. 80.

(10.) “An Act to ascertain and declare the condition of such Issue as may hereafter be born of Negro or Mulatto Female Slaves, during their servitude for Years, and for other purposes therein mentioned,” Archives of Maryland, 1809 Session Laws, chapter 171. Talbot County Court Register of Wills (Certificates of Freedom), MSA C1842–2, 1827, Mary Ann Jones, 114.

(p.172) (11.) William Green, Narrative of Events in the Life of William Green (Formerly a Slave) (Springfield, Mass.: L. M. Guernsey, 1853), 5.

(12.) On the development of the business of slave trading, see Michael Tadman, Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989); and Robert H. Gudmestad, A Troublesome Commerce: The Transformation of the Interstate Slave Trade (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004).

(13.) Talbot County Court (Land Records) 1794–96, MSA C1880–35, Robert Lambdin to negro George Kersey, 1795, p. 221.

(14.) Talbot County Court (Land Records) 1800–1802, MSA C1880–39, James Earle, Jr. to negro Richard Bowlin, 1802, p. 435; George Dawson to Peter and Rose Chesnor, 1801, p. 80; and Robin Chamberlain to negro Richard Bowlin, 1802, p. 434.

(15.) Rev. Noah Davis, A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis, a Colored Man. Written by Himself at the Age of Fifty-Four (Baltimore: J. F. Weishampel, Jr., 1859), 29.

(18.) T. Stephen Whitman explains the relationship between the price of children and the timing for purchase and manumission in Price of Freedom, 134–36.

(19.) Talbot County Court (Land Records) 1823–25, MSA C1880–55, John Tilghman to negro David Barnett, 1824, p. 66; Talbot County Court (Land Records), 1828–30, MSA C1880–58, Samuel Roberts to negro Hestor Benson, 1828, p. 111.

(23.) Edmond Kelley, A Family Redeemed from Bondage; Being Rev. Edmond Kelley, (the Author,) His Wife, and Four Children (New Bedford, Mass.: The Author, 1851), 11.

(24.) Talbot County Court (Land Records) 1806–8, MSA C1880–42, Sarah Hollyday to Nanny Occomy, 1808, p. 467, and Sarah Hollyday to Jack, 1808, p. 468.

(25.) Talbot County Court (Land Records) 1800–1802, MSA C1880–39, George Dawson to Peter and Rose Chesnor, 1801, p. 80.

(26.) See Philip D. Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 557–58.

(27.) Gary Nash, Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720–1840 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 84–87.

(28.) Talbot County Court (Certificates of Freedom), MSA C1843–1, Caroline Haskins, 1814, p. 123, Talbot County Register of Wills (Certificates of Freedom), MSA C1842–2, Anna Haskins, 1827, p. 54, and Joe Haskins, 1822, p. 23.

Other Haskins family members who filed for Certificates of Freedom include, Perry Haskins, MSA C 1843–1, 1810, p. 84, and Esther Haskins, 1812, p. 78. Talbot County Register of Wills (Certificates of Freedom), MSA C1842–1, Benjamin Haskins, 1811, pp. 44–45; Joseph Haskins, 1817, pp. 61–62; Rachel Haskins, 1811, pp. 42–43; Rachel Haskins, 1826, p. 52; Daphne Haskins, 1817, p. 80; and Violet Haskins, 1833, p. 82.

(29.) Alan Kulikoff, “The Origins of Afro-American Society in Tidewater Maryland and Virginia, 1700 to 1790,” William and Mary Quarterly 35 (1978): 243–44, and 255.

(30.) Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (New York: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, 1855), 38.

(31.) Brenda E. Stevenson, Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 303. Patience Essah, A House Divided: Slavery and Emancipation in Delaware, 1638–1865 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1996), 132.

(32.) “An Act Relating to the People of color in this State,” 1831 Session Laws, chapter 281, section 9.

(p.173) (33.) Greenbury Nicols and the ten members of his household were included in the 1832 Census of Negroes. Talbot County Court (Census of Negroes) 1832, MSA C1841–1, Greenbury Nicols Family, p. 14.

(34.) Fourth U.S. Census 1820, Talbot County, Maryland; Queen Anne’s County, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Baltimore City, Maryland. Fifth U.S. Census, 1830, Talbot County, Maryland; Queen Anne’s County, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Baltimore City, Maryland.

(36.) Shepard Krech III, Praise The Bridge That Carries You Over: The Life of Joseph L. Sutton (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981), 448–52.

(37.) Talbot County Commissioners of the Tax (Assessment Record), MSA C1831–2 (1798); C1831–4, 5, and 6 (1804); C1831–6 and 7 (1813); C1831–9, 10, 11, and 12 (1817); and C 1831–13, 14, and 15 (1826). Talbot County Board of County Commissioners (Assessment Record) 1832–96, MSA C1832–1, 2, 3, and 4 (1832). Talbot County Commissioners of the Tax (Assessed Persons List) 1812–30, MSA C1825–1 (1813), C-1825–6 (1822–24), C-1825–7 (1825, 1830).

(38.) Talbot County Court (Land Records) 1813–14, MSA C1880–46, Henry Nicols to Robert Moore, administrator for Grace Brooks, 1814, p. 504 (details terms of ninety-nine-year lease). Talbot County Commissioners of the Tax (Assessment Record), 1804, Election District 3, MSA C1831–6, Grace Brooks, pp. 5 and 6, and Ned Brooks, p. 5. Ned Brooks, Population Schedule, Second U.S. Census, Talbot County, Maryland, 1800, 76.

(39.) Talbot County Commissioners of the Tax (Assessment Record), 1813, Election District 3, MSA C1831–8, Hannah Brooks, p. 3.

(40.) Talbot County Commissioners of the Tax (Assessment Record), 1817, Election District 3, MSA C1831–11, Hannah Brooks, p. 3, and Amy Brooks, p. 3.

(41.) Talbot County Commissioners of the Tax (Assessment Record), 1832, Election District 3, MSA C1832–3, Amy Brooks, pp. 1 and 3. Talbot County Court (Census of Negroes) 1832, MSA C1841–1, Amy Brooks Family, p. 32. Amy Brooks’s family included herself (50 years old), Lucretia Brooks (23), David Brooks (20), and ten-year-old George Brooks.

(42.) Talbot County Court (Census of Negroes) 1832, MSA C1841–1, Lydia Hamilton/Hambleton, p. 39; Talbot County Commissioners of the Tax (Assessment Record), 1826, Election District 3, MSA CM 985–14, Lydia Hamilton, p. 13.

(44.) Talbot County Register of Wills (Indentures), 1804–12, MSA C1870–2, Charles Dorsey to Peter Edmondson, 1810, pp. 205–6.

(45.) Talbot County Register of Wills (Indentures), 1840–53, MSA C1870–7, James, Charles, and Thomas Hemsley to Levi Duke, 1855, pp. 39–44.

(46.) Talbot County Register of Wills (Indentures), 1804–12, MSA C1870–2, Henry to Matthew and Elizabeth Greentree, 1810, pp. 180–81.

(47.) Talbot County Register of Wills (Indentures), 1822–40, MSA C1870–6, Charles Peck to Thomas Bennet, 1823), p. 50.

(50.) Erica Armstrong Dunbar, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 60.

(51.) Erica R. Armstrong, “Negro Wenches, Washer Women, and Literate Ladies: The Transforming Identities of African American Women in Philadelphia 1780–1854” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2000), 43.

(52.) Eugene B. McCarthy and Thomas L. Doughton, eds., From Bondage to Belonging: The Worcester Slave Narratives (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 162.