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‘Slender Made, and Not Very Black’
Delaware Gazette and State Journal, Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday, November 24, 1829

Sarah Smith


Was committed to the Public Goal of New Castle County, in the State of Delaware, on the 2d day of Nov instant, as a runaway, a black woman [1] who calls herself


She appears to be about twenty-five years of age, rather slender made, and not very black. She is dressed in a Calico Frock, a Silk Coat of an olive coloar, and a black straw hat, trimmed with ribbon; and rings on her fingers. She has no cloathing except what she has on.

She says she served part of her time with a certain William Gilmore of Baltimore, and the remainder with Owen Huffington, of the same place, and that she is now free. [2]

The owner or owners are hereby notified to come prepared to prove their property, pay charges and take her away, otherwise she will be discharged from prison in six weeks from the date, agreeably to an act of Assembly in such case made and provided. [3]

William Herdman, Sh’ff.

New Castle, Nov. 4, 1829. 10 6.


1. We see the Police State of early America in action again with the capture of this mixed-race woman, who is said to be black a few lines above where she is said not to appear to be black, marking blackness as a social state, not a biological one.

2. This woman claims to have been a time-serving slave, now free, and although the authorities do not believe this, they hold that it may be true and that if no one comes for her she will be set free.

3. In the cases of runaway whites from the previous generation, caught travelling without freedom passes, these were sold “for their keep” if not claimed, where Sarah will be freed.

[Submitted to by Mary Kay Krogman]

So Her Master May Have Her Again

A History of Runaway White Slaves in Plantation America: Part Two

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