Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Slave Hire Badges of Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston had a system whereby a slaveholder could pay a license fee, good for one year at a time, on a sliding scale based on the slave's primary occupation. In return, he would receive a copper tag or badge for each slave registered containing four pieces of information: the city (Charleston), a serial number, the date (year), and an occupation.

The master was then allowed to hire that slave out to private individuals, businesses, or even the municipal government with the proviso that the slave would wear the badge at all times when on one of these hire-out jobs and that the slave could only perform the function he was licensed to perform.

Who benefited from this? The city made thousands of dollars a year in badge fees; the slaveholders made extra money for hiring out slaves that they had no work for at the time; the slaves themselves were often allowed to keep part of their outside wages and, as a bonus, they were given a certain amount of freedom in exchange for their skills.

Read more here 

Slave Badges and the Slave-Hire System in Charleston (The American Dream)

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