This website provides links and background information for the many Primary Sources that can be used for the study of the Landscape of Slavery in Maryland, with an emphasis on St. Mary’s County.
Large Repositories of Maryland-related Primary Sources
- Legacy of Slavery in Maryland, Maryland State Archives. Online databases for St. Mary’s County include War of 1812 reimbursements, certificates of freedom, and runaway slave advertisements.
- Georgetown Slavery Archive, repository of materials relating to the Maryland Jesuits, Georgetown University, and slavery. The Newtowne and St. Inigoes slave plantations were located in St. Mary’s County.
- Washington D.C. Freedom Suits (O Say Can You See) includes transcripts and summaries of freedom suits for enslaved persons and includes Southern Maryland families, most notably the Butler family.
- Archives of Maryland, published records of the State of Maryland, available online at the Maryland State Archives. There are additional records related to Persons of Color in Maryland at Volumes 494-523 (Baltimore “Colored Professional” city directories), 762-764 (PG Co. certificates of freedom and affidavits), 816-836 (AA and Caroline Co., many records), and 853-858 (Kent, QA, Harford, Talbot Co. certificates of freedom).
Southern Maryland First-Person Narrations of Enslaved Persons
- Rev. Thomas W. Henry, From slavery to salvation, summary, autobiography (published 1994). Rev. Henry was a prominent A.M.E. Minister and reputed John Brown co-conspirator born into slavery in Leonardtown, freed with many others by the 1804 will of Col. Richard Barnes, .
- Josiah Henson summary, autobiography, wikipedia, archaeological report about birthplace. Born in Charles County, escaped to Canada, published a famous autobiography which was one of the many inspirations for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- Charles Ball summary, autobiography, wikipedia, Anne Dowling Grulich article (Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum). Born in Calvert County, his grandfather and father resided in Leonardtown. Served in the War of 1812.
- Descendants of Irish Nell Maryland State Archives biography and primary sources. Eleanor Butler, also called “Irish Nell,” immigrated to Maryland as a white indentured servant to Charles Calvert, Third Lord Baltimore and married enslaved man Charles Butler. Between 1770 and 1787 her descendants won freedom suits.
St. Mary’s County Genealogical Resources
- [Print book only] Margaret K. Fresco, Marriages and deaths, St. Mary’s County, Maryland, 1634-1900 (1989)
- [Print book only] Agnes Kane Callum, Black marriages of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, 1800-1900 (Baltimore: Mullac Publishers, 1991). Unfortunately, the Fresco book mentioned above skipped marriages when the groom and bride were labeled as a person of color, both before and after the Civil War. This Callum book lists the marriages that Fresco skipped over. However, that having been said, there are still marriages listed in Fresco for persons of color, if they were not labeled as such on the original record.
- [Print book only] Janet Tice, Burials from tombstones, grave markers, and church registers of St. Mary’s County, Maryland : (1634-1994) (Leonardtown, Md.: St. Mary’s County Historical Society, 1996)
- [Print book only] Linda Davis Reno, St. Mary’s County, Maryland, wills (Lewes, Del.: Colonial Roots, ), five volumes, covering 1776-1857. The abstracts of these wills are very accurate, and include mentions of enslaved persons (indexed here). Sometimes freed persons of color also left wills. For wills after 1857, and all administrations, one has to visit the St. Mary’s County Courthouse. The wills prior to 1776 have been abstracted by Waldo-Woof! Books, but these abstracts have several errors and omissions — colonial era wills can be found at the St. Mary’s County Courthouse, as well as the Maryland State Archives.
- [Print book only] Flower of the Forest genealogy journal, edited by Agnes Kane Callum, some editions available to view at the St. Mary’s College of Maryland library.
- [Print book only] St. Mary’s County Orphans Court Records, books I-IV, 1777-1829
- Family Search website (Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints), free resource, but an account must be created. Contains modern death records (social security death index), as well as historical Maryland death records, some probates, some marriages, and other records.
The Federal Census
The United States decennial census is conducted every 10 years. For the years 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830 (St. Mary’s County and Prince George’s County are missing for 1830), and 1840, you can view only the heads of family for the white population and freed persons of color. In 1850 and 1860, you can view all freed persons, listed by household, while enslaved persons are only enumerated by demographic statistics, and are not listed by name on any of these censuses.
With a public library card from any Maryland library, you can use the Heritage Quest website for free, from any location, which will have all of these decennial censuses, including the 1850 and 1860 Schedule II (enslaved persons).
1832 Special Census of Freed Persons of Color
As a result of Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia in 1831, the State of Maryland worked with the Maryland Colonization Society to remove freed persons of color (PoCs) to Africa, mostly to the Cape Palmas colony, now known as Harper in the Republic of Liberia. A Census was taken in 1832 which lists all free PoCs in Maryland, and records whether there were any volunteers for removal (there were very few volunteers)
- St. Mary’s County, transcribed by Madeline Rivard, annotated and edited by Kent Randell, as part of MUST 390 coursework
- Calvert County, transcribed by Michael Vass, annotated and edited by Kent Randell, as part of MUST 390 coursework
- Somerset County, transcribed by Eubert G. Brown for shoreweb.com
The above three counties are the only transcribed indices which are available online.
You can view the original 1832 Censuses on the Maryland State Archives website, which contains scans of the microfilm reels of the Maryland Colonization Society (MS 571), housed at the Maryland Historical Society (some counties are missing):
(Allegany County, Anne Arundel County, Calvert County, Caroline County, Cecil County, Charles County, Dorchester County, Frederick County, Kent County, Montgomery County, Queen Anne’s County, St. Mary’s County, Somerset County, Talbot County, Washington County)
The original document containing the 1832 Census of [Free] Negroes is also available for Harford County, but can only be viewed in person at the Maryland State Archives: Harford County
Print versions are also available in Jerry M. Hynson, Free African Americans of Maryland : 1832 (Westminister, Md.; Family Line, 1998) [Allegany, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Ann’s, and St. Mary’s Counties], as well as Mary K. Meyer, Free Blacks in Harford, Somerset, and Talbot Counties, Maryland, 1832 (Mt. Air, Md.: Piper Creek, 1991). Some of these census include other information, such as volunteers for removal to Liberia, or whether they had personal or real estate, but these facts are not included in these books.
1864 “Slave Census” or “Slave Statistics”
As a result of the November 1, 1864 manumission of all enslaved persons in Maryland, as well as the self-emancipation of enslaved persons joining the Union Army, in 1867 and 1868 it was possible for enslavers to be compensated for their financial losses. In St. Mary’s County, about 3/4 of enslavers completed this paperwork. Although the original documents for many counties are online, only St. Mary’s County and Charles County have been transcribed and completely indexed:
- Agnes Kane Callum, Slave statistics of Saint Mary’s County, Maryland, 1864 (Baltimore: Mullac Publishers, 1993). Original St. Mary’s County document.
- Original document online (not transcribed or indexed): Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Carroll County, Frederick County, Howard County
- Scanned, but microfilm available only in person at the Maryland State Archives: Dorchester County
- Not scanned, and only available in physical form at the Maryland State Archives: Anne Arundel County, Kent County
- Charles County (excel sheet) has been discovered and transcribed by the Georgetown Memory Project.
St. Mary’s County Levy Court, Slave Tax Assessment Records
These records have not been indexed, but scans are available online on the following websites, made available by the Maryland State Archives. The 1831 Tax Assessment Records are broken into an alphabet. While the enslaved individuals do not have surnames (except in rare cases), the age and given name of enslaved individuals, and name of enslaver, are captured in these records.
Other Resources for St. Mary’s County
- “All of Us Would Walk Together”: The Transition from Slavery to Freedom at St. Mary’s City, dissertation about the plantation of Dr. John Mackall Broome in St. Mary’s City by Terry Peterkin Brock (see Neuwirth dissertation, below).
- Manumitted by Will, 1776-1857, compiled by Kent Randell, from the transcriptions of Linda Davis Reno, cross referenced with the St. Mary’s County certificates of freedom.
- [Print book only] Agnes Kane Callum, Colored volunteers of Maryland Civil War : 7th regiment, United States Colored Troops, 1863-1866 (Baltimore: Mullac Publishers, ca. 1990)
- Black Marriages of St. Mary’s County, 1795-1864, combining data found in the marriage compilations written by Callum and Fresco.
- 1842 Bark Globe Passenger List for St. Mary’s County, emigrants to Liberia
- Benjamin Hance, lynched in 1887
- “Chattel Records,” which contain a wealth of information about the institution of slavery, do not exist for St. Mary’s County. These records, along with deeds and other records, burned in the courthouse fire of March 8, 1831. The probate records survived the fire.
- Bayly E. Marks, “Skilled Blacks in Antebellum St. Mary’s County, Maryland,” The Journal of Southern History 53 (1987) article available on J-Stor database, accessible at most libraries of colleges and universities. Editor’s note: This excellent article, while noting the decrease in skilled labor after 1830, does not mention the effects that Nat Turner’s Rebellion in Virginia had on Southern Maryland.
- Michael Twitty, Fighting old Nep : foodways of enslaved Afro-Marylanders, 1634-1864 (by the author, 2006). Available at SMCM Archives.
- Jessica Loren Neuwirth, Landscapes of authority and nostalgia: Modernization of a Southern Maryland Plantation. St. Mary’s City, Maryland, 1840-1930. Dissertation concerning the plantation of Dr. John Mackall Broome of St. Mary’s City, available on Proquest Dissertations Database, available in the libraries of most colleges and universities (see Brock dissertation, above).
- Jessica L. Neuwirth, Archaeological Investigations at the Sotterley Slave Cabin.
- “With all deliberate speed: one high school’s story,” DVD documentary written, directed, and produced by Merideth Taylor about the desegregation of Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County. Available at the SMCM Library and SMCM Archives
- In relentless pursuit of an education : African American stories from a century of segregation (1865-1967) (Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions of St. Mary’s County, 2006). Book available at local libraries and the SMCM Archives
- Cecilia Annette Moore, A brilliant possibility: The Cardinal Gibbons Institute, 1924-1934, dissertation about the Cardinal Gibbons Institute in St. Inigoes, St. Mary’s County. Available on the ProQuest Dissertations database, held by most libraries of colleges and universities. Print copy available in the SMCM library.
- Videotaped oral history of Agnes Kane Callum (1926 – 2015 ), member of Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.
- post-1923: Digitized Newspapers of St. Mary’s County, The Enterprise (1952-2018) and The St. Mary’s Beacon (1923-1984), project headed by St. Mary’s County Public Libraries.
- pre-1923: Chronicling America, Library of Congress. Direct Link to the St. Mary’s Beacon, pre-Civil War, and post-Civil War.
Additional Community Links
- Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC), an organization founded to document, increase understanding of and foster African American contributions to the history and development of St. Mary’s County while advocating for improvements in health, education, and community building for all citizens.
- GU-272 Descendants Association, GU272 is dedicated to preserving the memory, commemorating the lives and restoring the honor of the 272 enslaved people sold by the Jesuits of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1838, and at other times.
- SlackWater Oral History Archive, St. Mary’s College of Maryland Archives, includes transcripts from projects related to the UCAC (linked above)
- NAACP, St. Mary’s County Branch
- United States Colored Troops Memorial Statue (Lexington Park, Maryland)
- Georgetown Memory Project
- Historic Sotterley, Inc. The Sotterley plantation museum, with the assistance of former board members such as Agnes Kane Callum (linked above), has been on the leading edge of including the stories of enslaved and free laborers in the interpretation of a Southern slave-holding plantation.