Slavery and the Making of the University University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Manuscripts Department Slavery and the Making of the University

Slaves of the Trustees

Monument to early trustees of the University of North Carolina Monument to early trustees of the University of North Carolina, 2005. Photograph by Stephen J. Fletcher.

The university's first Board of Trustees, appointed in 1789, included forty of the state's wealthiest and most influential men. More than a third of them were heroes of the American Revolution, including William R. Davie, Joseph Graham, Frederick Harget, Henry William Harrington, Benjamin Hawkins, James Holland, William Lenoir, Joseph McDowell, Alexander Mebane, Alfred Moore, Thomas Person, Benjamin Smith, Richard Dobbs Spaight, John Stokes, and Benjamin Williams.

William Blount represented North Carolina in the Constitutional Convention, and Hugh Williamson and Richard Dobbs Spaight were signers of the Constitution. James Iredell and Alfred Moore were early appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Samuel Johnston was the state's first U.S. senator. Six of the original trustees served as governor of the state, namely Samuel Ashe, William Blount, Samuel Johnston, Benjamin Smith, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Benjamin Williams. Others served in Congress and in the General Assembly. Many of them were also successful planters.

With few exceptions these men were slaveholders. The federal census of 1790 listed thirty of the forty as owning slaves. Of the other ten, nine were either not listed or were from counties for which the data have been lost. Only one trustee, William Porter of Rutherford County, was listed in 1790 as owning no slaves. However, we know from other sources that Hugh Williamson, a scholarly physician who disapproved of slavery, also owned no slaves.

By far the largest slaveholder among the original trustees was Benjamin Smith, who had 221 slaves in 1790. Others who owned large numbers were Stephen Cabarrus with 73, Samuel Johnston with 96, Willie Jones with 120, and Richard Dobbs Spaight with 71.

William R. Davie, ca. 1800. William R. Davie, ca. 1800. Click on the image to open a larger version in a new window.

From William Richardson Davie Papers #1793 (connect to finding aid).

9 August 1793. William R. Davie to Elijah Crockett. This bill of sale documents Davie's purchase of a "negroe man called Joe" and the sale of a "negroe woman slave called Dinah about thirteen or fourteen years old." There is no purchase price mentioned in the agreement.

From Joseph Graham Papers #284-z (connect to finding aid).

Photocopies of pages from The New Annual Register of History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1782, on which Graham and his son-in-law Robert Hall Morrison listed slave births from 1769 to 1864. Original is held in the North Carolina Collection. VC097 G74a 1782.

From Ernest Haywood Collection #1290 (connect to finding aid).

7 January 1797. Bill of sale. Adam John Haywood to John Haywood "two female Negroe slaves."

11 July 1797. Bill of sale. James Smith to John Haywood, "one Female Slave Named Juno aged about twenty eight years and her Child about four Weeks old."

16 December 1797. Bill of sale. Charles Thomas to John Haywood, "one Negro fellow named Sam."

22 December 1797. Bill of sale. Jesse Robinett to John Haywood "a Negro Boy Slave named Dick." Subsequent transactions are listed on verso.

From Lenoir Family Papers #426 (connect to finding aid).

15 January 1773. Bill of sale. Henry Collier to William Lenoir, "one Negroe woman named Jude about Forty Two years old, Guinea Born" for "eighteen pounds current money."

26 September 1782. Bill of sale. "Rec.d of William Lenoir one good likely healthy sound Negroe woman . . . [signed] Wm. Snoddey."

20 September 1787. Receipt for hire of "Negroe Jim" by William Lenoir from Elizabeth Hulme.

14 July 1790. Bill of sale. William Lenoir purchased "a certain Negroe Boy named Martin aged eleven years last fall" for the "sum of Ninty Pounds current money of North Carolina." The seller, Rhoderick Loyd, warrants the "said Negroe Boy to be healthy and sound & clear of all infirmity."

10 March 1792. Bill of sale. William Grayham to William Lenoir, "a certain Negroe boy about fifteen years old named Peter."

From Person Family Papers #590 (connect to finding aid).

March 1801. Settlement of Thomas Person's estate. Landed proprietor, member of the General Assembly and Provincial Congress, and brigadier general in the American Revolution, Thomas Person assisted in securing the charter for the University of North Carolina in 1789 and was a member of its first board of trustees from 1789 to 1795. The settlement after Person's death divided the "Negroes belonging to the Estate of Gen. Thomas Person" among his widow and children. The name and value of each slave are listed. The third of the estate received by the widow was valued at 3940.10 pounds.

From University Papers #40005 (connect to finding aid).

12 June 1849. "Trustees in account with Ann S. Hillyard." Along with her parents, "Nancy" Ann Segur Hilliard moved from Granville County to Chapel Hill in 1817. During the 1830s and 1840s, she was the proprietor of a boarding house known for a time as the Hilliard Hotel and later as the Eagle Hotel. The house catered primarily to student boarders but also accommodated other visitors. The trustees often boarded there during commencement. This account represents the costs of board for the trustees, their servants, and their horses. Trustees noted as bringing their own servants include Charles Manly, John M. Morehead, and William A. Graham. Board charged for servants was seventy-five cents, while the trustees were charged $1.50.

7 June 1850. "Trustees in account with Ann S. Hillyard for board of themselves, their servants and horses at Commencement."

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