Abolitionism in America

horizontal rule
Leg Shackles from Richmond, Virginia, 1865.
horizontal rule

horizontal rule
Slave Tag.
horizontal rule

horizontal rule
Virginia Slave Pass, 1845.
horizontal rule

Life in Bondage
horizontal rule
Slaves lived under heavy restrictions—physical and geographical—in their day-to-day lives. Physical confinement was the primary method slave owners used to take away freedom from slaves. Ankle and wrist shackles, for instance, limited mobility, discouraged flight, and were degrading to the men and women who were forced to wear them.

In some areas, masters hired out their skilled slaves to work outside of the plantation. While off the plantation, slaves were required to travel with a tag or pass. Traveling without official permission could result in punishment for the slave and, in some cases, the master.

Gift of Julia A. Wilbur.

Slaves that had been hired out for the day were legally required to wear a thin copper badge around their necks to signify that he or she was licensed and taxes paid for this service. Slaves were arrested and masters fined if the slave was discovered working for others without a Tag.

Gift of Gail ’56 and Stephen Rudin.

This pass, issued to a slave named Alfred, was proof of license to travel in and around Washington DC.

Gift of Gail ’56 and Stephen Rudin.

horizontal rule

horizontal rule

Continue to In Their Own Words: Slave Narratives

 

Cornell University Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library