The period of 1815–1816 was significant because it included the college’s first experiment in slave ownership. In 1808, the board of trustees hired one slave to work exclusively for the college at the rate of $100 per year. Several years later, the board hired Jack to work in this capacity. He possessed special skills that made him an excellent asset to the chemical department, where he served as a laboratory assistant. The college purchased Jack in 1816 for $900. At this time, the board of trustees refused to pay for his board; instead, they allowed him to earn his own money when he was not working in the laboratory. This arrangement lasted for several years until the board ultimately prohibited Jack from selling his own labor, placing him under the strict supervision of Thomas Cooper, the chemical professor. Jack was the only college-owned slave ever to have the opportunity to sell his labor. The board of trustees grew increasingly rigid in its dealings with purchased slaves over time.
In addition to Jack, many other hired-out slaves worked on campus at this time. Various building contractors and the steward hired the majority of these slaves. Contractors used slave labor to make bricks, build fences, and to construct and maintain the college buildings and grounds. The steward supervised slaves working in Stewards Hall. Records dating from November 1816 indicate that the steward employed fifteen slaves who produced, prepared, and served student meals. This group included a butcher, a baker, four female kitchen workers, a wagon driver, and two additional laborers who “cut wood, [worked] in the garden, and [went] to the mills.” The steward hired additional slaves to make students’ beds and sweep the tenements and public spaces. In addition to paying for tuition and board, students paid an annual fee to defray the cost of hiring and caring for the slaves who performed these services.
This letter is from “the Faculty of the So. Carolina College” and is addressed to Governor Andrew Pickens, Jr. It informs the governor of the college’s decision to purchase Jack.