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Colonial America’s Most Wanted

This research will begin with the statement that slaves had a tendency to run away from their masters if they got a chance. In order to recapture escaped slaves, their masters would advertise details relating to the slave in highly descriptive forms so that they slaves could be captured and returned. The bounty for the slaves depended on the distance from their master’s property and how much the master valued a particular slave. Similarly, people who captured slaves would also advertise to return slaves to their owners in order to get rewarded. The runaway slave advertisements were often very descriptive. These details can be utilised to surmise historical facts from these advertisements. Various compilations of these advertisements exist but perhaps the most famous one are those compiled from various Virginia newspapers during the 18th and 19th centuries. Subtle differences exist between runaway slave advertisements from various regions and periods as well as from various newspapers. These differences can be used to elucidate differing attitudes and functions of slaves and slave owners around the United States. Evidence is referenced here and comparisons have been drawn in order to highlight regional variations in slavery and servitude in colonial America. After going through a number of advertisements for runaway slaves, the first thing to notice is that slaves could be other than African American too. There are references to native Indian, partially Spanish and other ethnic slaves who had escaped too. (Radford University) Reference may be made here to an advertisement in The Boston Newsletter dated July 23rd, 1716 for an Indian named Min. Similarly, another advertisement from The New York Gazette dated to October 2nd, 1749 concerns a Spanish Mulatto fellow named George. However, another thing to notice is the fact that slaves with ethnicities other than African American are more distinctly available in the coastal strips of the United States. Furthermore, other than regularly captured and sold out slaves from African jungles, certain slaves were previously free men. The previous advertisement for the Spanish man declares that he was previously a privateer. (Radford University) Again the slaves found in the south and Middle America regions were distinctly slaves for generations and were African American in ethnicity. These free men turned slaves are more distinctly noticeable in coastal American states especially New York and Boston that served as major harbours. Demographic differences also exist in the usage of slaves from state to state. While the plantation owners used slaves largely for tending to the crop and other such affairs, the slaves in the more urbanised backgrounds were house hold helpers. The slaves who helped out on farms were diverse in terms of their professions. While it is believed that most slaves on plantations were merely farm labourers, but slaves were employed elsewhere as well. There are advertisements for black smiths, chimney sweepers, wood workers, shoe makers etc. One such example is of an advertisement placed in The New York Gazette on September 25th, 1749 relating a runaway slave who is a chimney sweeper. Another similar example comes from an advertisement in The American Weekly Mercury on October 16th, 1729 where a runaway slave with the name of Mulato John is declared to be a Shipwright by Trade. In comparison, most runaway slave advertisements from the urban centres were for house workers. (Radford University) In terms of gender, most of the household slaves were young females. Most advertisements point to this fact. On such advertisement from The New York Gazette from November 13th, 1732 is about a slave girl named Sarah aged 24 years working in a home. Another advertiseme

Colonial America’s Most Wanted