Jessica Millward, Slavery & Freedom in Early Maryland

Here’s another “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast. This is with historian Jessica Millward, talking about slavery and freedom in Colonial Maryland. Professor Millward’s research uses the enslaved person Charity Folks, who gained freedom in the late 1700s, to tell this story.

Here’s what we’ll learn in this episode:

What You’ll Discover

  • How slavery started in Maryland
  • Marylanders’ practice of slavery
  • Task vs. gang system of slavery
  • Charity Folks
  • The role public history played in helping Jessica uncover the story of Charity Folks
  • Public history sources
  • How Jessica used public history and archival sources to uncover Charity Folks’ story
  • How Charity, her daughter, and grandchildren obtained their freedom from slavery
  • Freedom suits in Maryland courts
  • What types of evidence slaves mustered to win freedom suits
  • How slaves learned about the court system and how to use it
  • Charity’s life after manumission
  • How Charity experienced slavery and freedom as a woman
  • Slave families and their dynamics
  • Interactions between slaves and free African Americans
  • The legacy of Charity Folks

You can access the podcast here.

The information here also debunks the neoconfederate lie that Anthony Johnson was the first person to legally own a slave in America. Slavery was legal in Maryland long before Johnson’s case came to trial.


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