Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Scott R Nelson


In the antebellum period Richmond, Virginia newspapers ran advertisements for runaway slaves. Most of the ads concerned individuals absconded from outlying counties, distant regions of the state, or nearby states. These short notices have been used frequently to describe and discuss runaways and the link between flight and freedom in Virginia. In contrast to the brief newspaper entries the Daybook of the Richmond Police Guard, 1834--1844 provides names and detailed descriptions of nine hundred-thirty-five runaways all of whom lived in the city and were reported within the city precincts during one ten year period. The Daybook is a hand written record consisting of entries made by the Watchmen on duty each day. its pages are "A Memorandum of Robberies and Runaways" for the whole city and in addition to fugitive slaves list lost and stolen clothing, food, textiles, bank notes, fires and murder. Chapter 1 discusses the historiography of runaway slaves and the ways that the Daybook data allows a close examination of African American resistance in an urban setting. Chapter 2 explores the geography and look of the city of Richmond in the 1830s and early 40s. Chapter 3 closely examines the fugitives themselves, and Chapter 4 explores the context of laws and restrictions under which the black population, slave and free, lived. Chapter 5 describes the varied strategies the enslaved population, bound in kinship and friendship to the free black population, used to successfully hide within the city and segues into the transcribed complete text of the Daybook of the Richmond Police Guard. 1834--1844.



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