Receipt of payment from trustees to James Henton, April 24, 1834

Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865:

The Foundations of the University of South Carolina

1830s: Slavery in Flux

Surviving records from the 1830s give us a vivid portrait of the college’s transition from a reliance on owned to “hired” slaves. In 1828–1829, the board of trustees purchased two slaves, each named Jim, for a combined cost of $900. The board also purchased a carpenter, Henry, for $700. One Jim was originally hired for the science laboratory, but all three also cleaned rooms and made beds. The college provided the slaves with clothing, medical attention, and boarding in Stewards Hall, where they also waited on tables. The trustees justified the purchase of these slaves because the long-term investment was less than the cost of repeated hiring. The college’s small enrollment in the 1830s may also have made this system feasible. However, college-owned slaves were only a fraction of the total number of slaves on campus.

Fears in the early 1830s about unsupervised slaves and damage to college buildings led to a change in the labor system. The college sold Henry, who had run away and was recaptured in 1833, but both Jims remained on campus. Nonetheless, the college sought tighter control over the labor system, which it achieved with the establishment of the college marshal in 1835. This official coordinated the hiring of slaves for general labor on campus. As in most owner–hirer contracts, the marshal paid for the slave’s clothing and board while they served the college.

The names of unskilled slaves usually went unrecorded, but the marshal often hired these slaves to perform manual labor such as hauling wood and cleaning rooms. There were also a number of skilled slaves on campus: Charles cleaned the college’s well in August 1837. Joe Mason, possibly named for his skill in masonry, was paid for repairing and whitewashing the house of Professor Thomas Twiss in 1837. The college hired Joe and Toby, both carpenters, for a sum of $38.25 in 1839.

The faculty continued to hire slaves for their own use, and the college reimbursed professors for their expenses. Professors repeatedly hired Toby, a slave owned by President Robert Barnwell, between 1837 and 1840. As a skilled slave, Toby earned Barnwell 75 cents per day in 1837. At other times, Barnwell received between $13 and $20 per month for Toby’s labor.

Slavery was in flux at South Carolina College in the 1830s. In a desire to preserve order, the college shifted from an ownership system to a hiring system administered through the marshal. But not all the slaves on campus were provided by the marshal, as exemplified by the professors’ hire of Toby in the late 1830s.

Receipt of payment to James Henton, April 24, 1834
“Trustees of S. C. College to James Henton,” April 24, 1834, SCL

Receipt of payment to James Henton for purchase of “1 pair of shoes for Jim [and 1 pair of shoes for] Jim Black.”