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‘An Outlandish Negro Fellow’
A Salt and Pepper Jailbreak

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon),

Williamsburg, June 27, 1771.

COMMITTED to the Jail of Augusta, an outlandish Negro Fellow, five Feet ten or eleven Inches high, is likely, well made, but cannot speak English well enough to tell his Master's Name. [1]

He had on an old blue Frock, very short, old blue Breeches, Osnabrug Shirt, and a white Woolen Cap.

Also committed to the said Jail, on Suspicion of being a Runaway Servant, an Irishman who calls himself JAMES TOBIN, and answers the Description of a Person of his Name advertised some Time ago by the Jailer of Amherst, who had confessed himself to be a Runaway Servant belonging to Captain Somerville. The Apparel he now hath on is a blue Cloth Coat with yellow carved Buttons, an old striped Cotton Waistcoat, old Leather Breeches, coarse Shirt, and a Half-worn Castor Hat. [2]

The Owners [3] are desired to pay Charges, and take them away. GEORGE MATTHEWS, Sheriff.


1. This man may be directly from Africa, Indian or China.

2. Negro and Irish sharing the fortunes of escape has become a common theme in the extant documents, one which surprised this researcher.

3. Throughout this and other advertisements for runaways, there has been found no evidence that whites and blacks were treated better or worse than the other or that they were regarded as anything other than property. Note that the semantics of the trade were assigned by the owners, not the owned and meant nothing other than that the owners wished the whites and blacks they owned to cling to their separate identity and avoid making common cause.

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

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