Runaway Slave Advertisements

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Slavery and indentured servitude was the backbone of the Virginia economy. Slaves were considered an investment in the planter’s business and a necessity for success. The treatment of slaves was much the same as owning a piece of property or equipment. Slaves were not viewed as fellow human beings, quite the opposite they were of lesser status. Slaves and indentured servants grew tired of their treatment and responded with acts of rebellion. One such act was for the slaves and servants to run away. Indentured servants and slaves both made the incredibly brave decision to risk fleeing and capture in the hope of finding a free and better life, as opposed to continue living in their oppressed conditions. Runaway slave advertisements became commonplace in newspapers in Virginia and across the south. The advertisements represented the increasing resistance on the part of both indentured servants and slaves of their poor treatment. The advertisements were the slave owner’s resource in the return of their property. When analyzing the advertisements, it is clear the attitudes towards the servants and slaves were more of a piece of property than that of a human being. The slave owners list thing such as physical descriptions, special skills, rewards for their capture and return. This paper will compare and contrast the advertisements of indentured servant and slave runaways.

One of the most notable features in the advertisements for both the indentured servants and slaves is the physical descriptions. The descriptions are given with great detail, however they do not contain a personal tone to them. The descriptions sound very unattached, as if describing an inanimate object. The advertisements almost all begin with “Negro man” or “Negro...

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...kely that other slave owners would help a runaway.

When the Northern States abolished slavery, blacks could begin building a life in freedom. The North was now the land of freedom. This had a huge impact on the thousands of slaves and indentured servants who ran away trying to reach freedom and their dreams of a better life. The southern slave owners viewed the act of running away as disrespect. They had paid money for the slaves and therefore owned them as their property. The advertisements served as a resource for them to regain their possessions, both the human and material possessions. The descriptions of the indentured servants and slaves that were given in the advertisements clearly attest to the fact that slaves were viewed as property. The advertisements offer great insight into what the life of a slave was like, and why they would risk running away.

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