Photograph of extant slave quarters at the University of South Carolina

Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865:

The Foundations of the University of South Carolina

Sources: Campus Slaves & Slavery

The most important sources in recovering the role of slaves at South Carolina College come from the records of the Treasurer’s Office, which are maintained by the University Archives. This rich collection includes receipts for labor and materials, as well as account books recording scheduled monthly payments, which not only list tasks completed by slaves but often provide the names of these forgotten laborers. These documents suggest the daily and monthly rhythms of work and the changing labor needs of the college as it grew in both enrollment and land area. Here, the meeting minutes of the board of trustees are useful as members discussed new buildings and the necessary purchase or hiring of slaves to complete them. The available documentary record is fragmented, with much of the best information gathered from records of the late 1820s, 1830s, and 1850s.

A number of other sources provide helpful information on urban slavery in Columbia and the South, as well as the hiring-out system. John Hammond Moore’s Columbia and Richland County: A South Carolina Community, 1740–1990 (1993) is essential reading for anyone interested in antebellum Columbia, offering a description of life for both slaves and free blacks within the city. Additionally, Historic Columbia Foundation’s exhibit, “Home to Many People: Discovering the People, Places and Progress of the Hampton-Preston Mansion,” provides insights into the lives of the people, including slaves, who lived and worked at one of Columbia’s most historic houses. Some of the more important works on urban slavery in general include Richard C. Wade’s Slavery in the Cities: The South, 1820–1860 (1964); Claudia Dale Goldin’s Urban Slavery in the American South, 1820–1860: A Quantitative History (1976); Midori Takagi’s “Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction”: Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782–1865 (1999); and Jonathan D. Martin’s Divided Mastery: Slave Hiring in the American South (2004).