‘He is a sensible artful fellow’

Published:May 23, 2009 by Brendan Wolfe


An advertisement in the Norfolk Herald on October 2, 1800, calling attention to two runaway slaves—a father and daughter:

Twenty Dollars Reward. Ran away, about the 20th instant, a Negro Man called BRISTOL, and his daughter SALLY. Bristol is a short, thick, very black fellow, with very short curled hair; his clothes are sailor’s, being accustomed to work on board of ships at City Point; he is remarkably fond of smoaking; his teeth are very rotten; he is a sensible artful fellow, and I believe was concerned in the late conspiracy, and procured a forged pass. His daughter is about 16, and very like him, but tall for her age. I expect they will attempt to get on board some vessel going to the northward. They formerly belonged to Mr. Robertson, of Manchester, by whom he was mortgaged by Mr. Boyd of Mecklenburg; his wife says he ran away fearing to be carried up to that country and sold. Masters of vessels are forwarned taking them out of the State. I will give the above reward to any person who will deliver them to me near Petersburg, or Ten Dollars if secured in jail so that I get them again. JOHN GILLIAM, Jun. Prince George, Sept. 30.

Read more such ads at The Geography of Slavery in Virginia, a digital collection whose creator, Tom Costa, is a professor of history at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

And here’s a recently aired episode of the excellent radio program With Good Reason in which host Sarah McConnell interviews Costa. She also talks to a theater professor about the dramatic implications of John Brown‘s trial and hanging.

More John Brown here and here. And a lecture this afternoon on fulfilling Brown’s legacy.

IMAGE: An enslaved man and woman attempting to escape, 1857. The image is part of the digital collection The Atlantic Slave Trade and Life in the Americas: A Visual Record by Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite Jr.