Run Away Slave Search Essay

913 words - 4 pages

One appalling morning in 1738 Virginia, Nathaniel Harrison had a rude awaking to find not one, but three of his slaves had vanished. Documented in the Virginia Gazette, Basil, Glocester and Sam had ran away by canoe Sunday, the twenty-fifth of June as they were seen floating down the river. Harrison mentioned that these three men had cotton waste coats and breeches, as well as several old clothes, salt fish and corn stolen from the neighbor. Whoever could return the property back to their “master” would receive twenty shillings for each slave paid by Harrison himself.
James Newgent wrote in the same newspaper eight years later of his run away slave Harry, 35, who had small eyes, a very ...view middle of the document...

The owner would list the clothes they were wearing, scars, languages spoken and mannerisms as well as where they could have possibly gone and who might be harboring them. Advertisements almost always ended with a reward for whoever returned the property to the rightful owner. Readers of newspapers found these advertisements common and could find them in sections next to other stolen items as well as sales for real estate, animals and slaves.
These advertisements are important because it gives historians insight on the relationship between the slaves and their owners. Throughout these advertisements readers can see that the owners viewed their slaves as mere property, such as horses or cattle. The descriptions the owners give the readers provide some comprehension of how these slaves were not fairly treated. Evidence of lower quality clothing, as well as scars and injuries from dangerous working conditions and savage discipline are predominating. Some advertisements indicated that slaves with certain skills left to find better jobs since it was a sparse labor market. Clearly, these advertisements were used to ultimately have their property returned to them, since human labor was a necessity.
While these newspapers give historians documentation in specific cities, parts of the country that did not have proper funding for newspapers are left in the dark. Bigger cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston were one of the first to establish a newspaper, while southern newspapers were initiated much later. The demand for slaves in the north was meager, while it was much more prevalent in southern colonies. Colonies in Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey had both a demand for slaves as well as newspapers, leaving historians to focus predominantly on those areas. Placing an...

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