Slave Hiring in the American South
JONATHAN D. MARTIN
HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Copyright © 2004 by the President and Fellows
of Harvard College
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Martin, Jonathan D.
Divided mastery : slave hiring in the American South /
Jonathan D. Martin.
Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.
1. Slavery—Southern States—History.
2. Slaves—Employment—Southern States—History.
Designed by Gwen Nefsky Frankfeldt
For my parents
Introduction: Slaves with Two Masters 1
1 Slave Hiring in the Evolution of Slavery 17
2 A Blessing and a Curse 44
3 Risks and Returns 72
4 Compromised Mastery 105
5 Resistance and Abuse 138
6 Working Alone 161
ntroduction: Slaves with Two Masters
New Year’s Day was always called Hiring Day by the slaves . . .
Slaves went to a place called the hiring grounds to hire their labors
out for the next year. That’s where that sayin’ comes from that
what you do on New Year’s Day you’ll be doin’ all the rest of the
Former slave Sister Harrison, interviewed in 1937
thing is an evil, existing among us.” These insistent words ap-
ared in the December 1852 issue of the Southern Planter, in an arti-
ned by the journal’s editor, Frank Ruffin. The sinister “thing” to
Ruffin referred was the practice of renting out slaves. Slave hiring
a new phenomenon in the 1850s, so the journal’s subscribers were
uainted with the source of Ruffin’s consternation, even if they did
re his alarm. Throughout the colonial and antebellum periods,
n slaves were routinely bought and sold, but they were even more
ly rented out—usually by the year, but also by the month, week, or
red slaves, ubiquitous in the South, did all kinds of labor. They
as field hands and domestic la