Receipt of payment to W. B. Broom for Henry and Tom, circa 1858 to 1860

Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865:

The Foundations of the University of South Carolina

1859: Working to War

As secessionist sentiment reached a fever pitch in 1859, slaves at South Carolina College continued performing many of the jobs they had for nearly fifty-five years. Jack and Henry appear monthly in hiring records for the college, performing construction and brick work, as well as undertaking repairs to Professor Robert Barnwell’s on-campus house. These repairs, which mostly occurred in 1858, led President Augustus Longstreet to remark that in addition to problems with the faculty dwelling, “the accommodations for servants are very poor,” suggesting that slave houses might receive some attention as well. During this same period, twelve or thirteen slaves regularly received room and board from the college; they were also hired by Broom, though always separately from Jack and Henry. An equal number of hired “tenement boys” cleaned student living quarters, known as tenements. In the latter part of 1860, Jack seems to have been replaced by Tom, who was hired out with Henry to complete work on a fourth professor’s house and accompanying slave quarters, as well as regular building repairs.

The start of the Civil War eliminated enrollment as students left to join the Confederate cause, and the numbers of hired slaves dropped accordingly, from eleven to eight to five throughout 1861. Henry and Tom continued working at the college through June 1862, when the board of trustees turned the college grounds over to the Confederate army for use as a hospital. Slaves did continue to live and work at the college, though they reported directly to hospital officers. A complaint about the noisy dances of hospital slaves living in a wing of DeSaussure College suggests that even war did not end a sense of community among slaves at South Carolina College.

Receipt of payment for Henry and Tom
“S. C. College to W. B. Broom,” ca. 1858–1860, SCL

This receipt, signed by president Augustus B. Longstreet, notes the costs of hiring and boarding Henry and Tom for one month.