The period of
1815-1816 was significant because it included the college’s
first experiment in slave ownership. In 1808, the board of trustees hired one
slave to work exclusively for the college at the rate of $100 per year. Several
years later, the board hired Jack to work in this capacity. He possessed special skills that
made him an excellent asset to the chemical department, where he served as a
laboratory assistant. The college purchased Jack in 1816 for $900. At this
time, the board of trustees refused to pay for his board; instead, they allowed
him to earn his own money when he was not working in the laboratory. This
arrangement lasted for several years until the board ultimately prohibited Jack
from selling his own labor, placing him under the strict supervision of Thomas Cooper, the
chemical professor. Jack was the only college-owned slave ever to have the
opportunity to sell his labor. The board of trustees grew increasingly rigid in
its dealings with purchased slaves over time.
In addition to Jack, many other hired-out slaves worked on campus at this time. Various building contractors and the steward hired the majority of
these slaves. Contractors used slave labor to make bricks, build fences, and to
construct and maintain the college buildings and grounds. The steward
supervised slaves working in Stewards Hall. Records dating from November 1816 indicate that the
steward employed fifteen slaves who produced, prepared, and served student meals. This group included a butcher, a baker, four female kitchen
workers, a wagon driver, and two additional laborers who “cut wood, [worked] in
the garden, and [went] to the mills.” The steward hired additional slaves to
make students’ beds and sweep the tenements and public spaces. In addition to
paying for tuition and board, students paid an annual fee to defray the cost of
hiring and caring for the slaves who performed these services.
'Faculty of College,' ca. 1816, SCDAH
This letter is from "the Faculty of the So. Carolina College" and is addressed to Governor Andrew Pickens, Jr. It informs the governor of the college's decision to purchase Jack.
'Expenses, Stewards Table,' November 4, 1815, SCL
This list details slave duties at Stewards Hall.
'Annual Student Expenses,' ca. 1815, SCL
This document notes the annual fee that students paid the college for the use of slaves.