As secessionist sentiment reached a fever pitch in
1859, slaves at South Carolina
performing many of the jobs they had for nearly fifty-five years. Jack and Henry appear monthly in hiring records for the college,
performing construction and brick work, as well as undertaking repairs to Professor Robert
Barnwell’s on-campus house. These repairs, which mostly occurred in 1858, led President Augustus Longstreet to remark
that in addition to problems with the faculty dwelling, “the accommodations for
servants are very poor,” suggesting that slave houses might receive some
attention as well. During this same period, twelve or thirteen slaves regularly
received room and board from the college; they were also hired by Broom,
though always separately from Jack and Henry. An equal number of hired
“tenement boys” cleaned student living quarters, known as tenements. In the
latter part of 1860, Jack seems to have been replaced by Tom, who was hired
out with Henry to complete work on a fourth professor’s house and accompanying
slave quarters, as well as regular building repairs.
The start of the Civil War eliminated enrollment as students
left to join the Confederate cause, and the numbers of hired slaves dropped accordingly, from eleven to
eight to five throughout 1861. Henry and Tom continued working at the college
through June 1862, when the board of trustees turned the college grounds over
to the Confederate army for use as a hospital. Slaves did continue to live and
work at the college, though they reported directly to hospital officers. A complaint
about the noisy dances of hospital slaves living in a wing of DeSaussure College
suggests that even war did not end a sense of community among slaves at South Carolina College.
'S.C. College to W.B. Broom,' ca. 1858-1860, SCL
This receipt, signed by president Augustus B. Longstreet, notes the costs of hiring and boarding Henry and Tom for one month.