Thursday, July 12, 2018

Slaves in in Maryland - Men & Women

Tobacco - Stringing the Primings. 19C Newspaper image

Soon after the settlement of Maryland in the 17C, British ships with Africans for sale as slaves began to appear in the Chesapeake. The Atlantic Ocean route between Africa & the Americas was called the Middle Passage. Planters looking for a cheap labor force were interested in using Africans as forced laborers on their tobacco plantations. For example, Governor Leonard Calvert negotiated with a ship captain as early as 1642 for the purchase of thirteen Africans to work on his St. Mary's property. Africans were in rising demand by the colonists & British merchants continued to bring them in large numbers. Between 1675 & 1695 about 3,000 Africans entered the Chesapeake region to be put to work mostly on the tobacco plantations of Maryland & Virginia.

In the seventeenth century, British ships with Africans for sale as slaves began to appear in the Chesapeake. The Atlantic Ocean route between Africa & the Americas was called the Middle Passage. Planters looking for a cheap labor force were interested in using Africans as forced laborers on their tobacco plantations. For example, Governor Leonard Calvert negotiated with a ship captain as early as 1642 for the purchase of 13 Africans to work on his St. Mary's property. Africans were in rising demand by the colonists & British merchants continued to bring them in large numbers. Between 1675 & 1695 about 3,000 Africans entered the Chesapeake region to be put to work mostly on the tobacco plantations of Maryland & Virginia.

By the 18C, Maryland was beginning to get a new generation of Africans, born in America, who did not know their parents' African homeland first hand. In Tobacco & Slaves (1998) Allan Kulikoff uses records of several Maryland plantations to show the gradual changes in the fertility of the enslaved population. On the Edmond Jennings plantation in 1712 almost all the workers were Africans. By 1730, nine out of ten black men & almost all of the black women working on the Robert Carter Virginia estates were born in Africa, but beginning in the 1730s the enslaved population began to grow naturally & was composed of both Africans & African Americans. In a few generations Africa became simply a distant land to most of the Chesapeake's African Americans.

During the Revolutionary war around 1780, Maryland was in serious need of soldiers causing them to allow “any able-bodied slave between 16 & 40 years of age, who voluntarily enters into service… with the consent & agreement of his master, may be accepted as a recruit.” Maryland Legislature passed a law that required slaveholders with six or more slaves between the ages of 15 & 45 to enlist a slave in the slave regiment.

In 1780, slaves also began to participate in the expansion of the major port city of Baltimore. They took on the roles of craftspeople, sailors, carters, day laborers, domestics, & washerwomen. The majority of Maryland’s urbanslave population practiced Methodism.  By 1783 enslaved people made up one third of the state of Maryland’s population. The only state that had a higher percentage of enslaved people was Virginia.

The distribution of slaves was uneven within the state. The shore of the Chesapeake Bay had the black majorities due to the tobacco growing counties that were there. On the Eastern shore, slaves accounted for a quarter to a third of the population. In the counties bordering on Pennsylvania, slaves made up only 10 to 15% of the overall population. As tobacco profits decreased statewide, Maryland disallowed slaves from other areas into the state in 1783.