Harlan Greene: Slave Badges and the Slave-Hire System in Charleston, South Carolina

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2008 Paperback

The slave-hire system of Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1700s and the 1800s produced a curious object--the slave badge. The badges were intended to legislate the practice of hiring a slave from one master to another, and slaves were required by law to wear them. Slave badges have become quite collectible and have excited both scholarly and popular interest in recent years. This work documents how the slave-hire system in Charleston came about, how it worked, who was in charge of it, and who enforced the laws regarding slave badges. Numerous badge makers are identified, and photographs of badges, with commentary on what the data stamped on them mean, are included. The authors located income and expense statements for Charleston from 1783 to 1865, and deduced how many slaves were hired out in the city every year from 1800 on. The work also discusses forgeries of slave badges, now quite common. There is a section of 20 color plates.

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