Friday, May 10, 2013

Said Boy, Tom Jackson Claims to be Free

Two years ago I wrote about the advertisements shown to the left. In that post I mentioned that cities and larger towns proved be a strong draw for runaway slaves. In urban settings runaways could better blend into the hustle and bustle of crowded streets and hideout in back alleys. There they could also receive assistance from free people of color and hired out slaves.

If I had taken the time two years ago to continue to follow how these advertisements played out, that earlier post may have been somewhat different.

This string of notices actually contained one other that I was unable to fit into the image, making nine total ads. Last evening, while working my way through rolls of mircofilm, and continuing my survey of slavery ads in Kentucky Civil War newspapers, I came across the string of notices again. This time though, I continued on through later issues.

The advertisements first appeared in the November 5, 1862, issue of the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth. By November 24, apparently five of the nine captured runaways had been claimed by their owners, as only four were still listed. By December 17, three others were claimed, and thus, only one was left. The lone alleged runaway remaining was the first listed, Tom Jackson.

When one reads in full Jackson's descriptive advertisement, it become clearly apparent why he was the only one not picked up by his owner or master. "The said boy, Tom Jackson, claims to be free, having been purchased by his father from Strother Slaughter and refers to Isaac R. Green, of Louisville, Ky., to prove the fact," wrote the Franklin County jailer H.R. Miller.

Apparently, the good jailer did not take the time to verify Jackson's claim to freedom with Isaac Green of Louisville as the free man continued to be advertised in the newspaper for several more months.

It is unknown how many free men and women were incorrectly incarcerated as runaways. In my ongoing survey I have come across a handful saying so. The Dred Scott Supreme Court decision in 1857 determined that African Americans - whether slave or free - had no rights that whites were bound to respect. So, if free people of color lost or somehow destroyed their free papers, the burden of proof often proved to be more than they could maintain, or that their accusers cared to verify.    

No comments:

Post a Comment