The Story: Overview

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"Comparing my position now, living in a good home, with my wife, with friends, respected in my community, with the same rights that every other man has, those days of my boyhood seem like a dream. But folks who know my story like to hear me tell about those days, how we lived, what we thought about, how we were treated, what kind of people our masters were. So I recall them for my friends and for other folks, who, though they do not know me, might like to hear a true story that may seem as strange to them, however, as a fairy tale."


William Henry Singleton, New Bern, N.C.

Slavery has been part of North Carolina's history since its settlement by Europeans in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Many of the first slaves in North Carolina were brought to the colony from the West Indies or other surrounding colonies, but a significant number were brought from Africa. Records were not kept of the tribes and homelands of African slaves, however, so it's impossible to know the exact ethnic make-up.

Because of its geography, North Carolina did not play a large part in the early slave trade. The string of islands that make up its Outer Banks made it dangerous for slave ships to land on most of North Carolina's coast, and most slave traders chose to land in ports to the north or south of the colony. The one major exception is Wilmington; located on the Cape Fear River, it became a port for slave ships due to its accessibility. By the 1800s, blacks in Wilmington outnumbered whites 2 to 1. The town relied on slaves' abilities in carpentry, masonry, and construction, as well as their skill in sailing and boating, for its growth and success.

"My name is Moses Grandy: I was born in Camden County, North Carolina. I believe I am fifty-six years old. Slaves seldom know exactly how old they are: neither they nor their masters set down the time of a birth; the slaves, because they are not allowed to write or read; and the masters, because they only care to know what slaves belong to them. "


Moses Grandy, Camden County, N.C.