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Carolina – An Enslaved Mason

African American history, Amber Satterthwaite, General, History

An enslaved mason named Carolina had a major role in the construction and maintenance of buildings at Drayton Hall and other plantations in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Carolina and his son Peter may have lived at Charles Drayton’s plantation called Savannah, but as the foreman of a group of masons, Carolina spent a lot of time at Drayton Hall and frequently traveled to other Drayton properties. But Carolina was much more than a knowledgeable mason—he was a man determined to achieving freedom at any cost.

Carolina was one of the enslaved people Charles Drayton wrote about the most in his journals (1784-1820). Only one other enslaved person’s name appeared with more frequency than Carolina’s. Between 1797 and 1818, Carolina took his fate into his own hands and attempted to liberate himself from enslavement at least eight times. On one of those occasions, Carolina returned to the plantation on his own. The other seven times, he was captured and was either immediately returned to Drayton Hall or Savannah, or he was held in the Work House in Charleston, which essentially functioned as a jail for enslaved people, and a place where prisoners endured physical punishment and hard labor. Exactly what types of punishment Carolina faced in the Workhouse were not recorded by Drayton, but the records that survive paint a vivid picture of a courageous man willing to risk his life for his freedom.

In March of 1818, Carolina was taken from the Workhouse in Charleston and carried aboard a schooner bound for Drayton Hall. But before the schooner departed, Carolina escaped. The last time Carolina’s name appeared in Drayton’s journals was June 9, 1818. He had been living on his own in hopes of making his way to freedom for just over two months, but was captured and held once again at the Workhouse. Carolina’s story of tenacity and resistance is remarkable, but he was only one of many enslaved people who worked at Drayton Hall who risked everything for freedom.

Join us on February 9, 2023 at 5pm for a webinar on Slave Patrols and the Charleston Work House.   Curator Amber Satterthwaite will use Charles Drayton’s diaries and other historic documents introduce you to some of the courageous individuals who risked everything by trying to reach their freedom, the consequences some of them faced, and the determination of men and women who continued to resist enslavement.

Register for this webinar