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‘An Artful Fellow’
An Irishman Helps a 'Virginia Born Negro Man Slave' Escape

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon),

Williamsburg, February 21, 1771.

Twenty five Pounds Reward.

RUN away from the Subscriber, in Cumberland County, Virginia, the 3rd of June last, a Virginia born Negro Man [1] Slave named WILL, near six feet high, thirty five Years old, and well made; his Face is often full of bumps.

He was seen with a forged Pass, signed by Charles Clark, at John [illeg.], on Roanoke River, near Jefferson's Ferry, and passed for a Freeman, [2] by the Name of Austin Cousins.

He endeavoured to get another Pass, to go into Carolina; which if he did it is probable he may have changed his name, as he is an artful Fellow.

Whoever apprehends the said Slave, and brings him to me, shall have the above Reward; or if secured in any Jail, and advertised in the VIRGINIA GAZETTE, TEN POUNDS Reward.

As he is outlawed, I will give TEN POUNDS for his Head, [3] or for a proper Certificate to entitle me to be allowed for him by the Country.

FEBRUARY 1, 1771. ANTHONY MARTIN. N.B. GEORGE KELLY, an Irishman, about six Feet high, stout made, who talks big and loud, and is of mean Character, had some Dealings with the above Slave before he ran away, and I have Reason to think harboured him some Time after. The said Kelly, with his Wife and one Child, ran away in August, and crossed the Roanoke River, at Jefferson's Ferry. It is probable the Slave had some Place appointed to meet him in Carolina; and if they are together, I have no Doubt will endeavour to make him pass for a Freeman. [4]


1. The idea that blacks were regarded as less than human is often given the lie by such statements that recognize the humanity of negros slaves.

2. Not only was a white man willing to aid him, but there were enough free negroes in Virginia to permit an escaped one to pass as a freeman.

3. Scalp bounties were always suspect, whereas a head could be identified. He will take his slave’s head for 10 pounds if the County does not drop the slave’s outlaw status. I once worked for a man of similar character and am not shocked by the suggested decapitation.

4. George Kelly is obviously a servant, who not only escaped with his hostage family, but seems to have helped Will escape as well.

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

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