Bondage Badges

One of the most unusual artifacts from the slavery era are the copper badges that slaves would wear like a necklace when being hired out to work for someone else. The slave hire system began early in the history of #Charleston, as a brisk slave trade from West Africa increased population of those in servitude from just a few hundred in 1700 to more than 12,000 by 1720. Because some slaveowners eventually had more slaves than there was work for them to do, the hiring system became a common method of earning revenue from someone else who needed slave labor. The city of Charleston regulated the hiring system by at first issuing paper tickets that owners would purchase and slaves would carry, but the more durable copper badge became the accepted method by the 19th century. Each badge was stamped with an identification number, a date, and the skill for which the slave was hired. The more common badges were for unskilled positions such as servants and porters, but many slaves were also hired as apprentices in carpentry, ironwork and other trades, and because those badges were less common, today they are much more coveted as collectors items. We pass a collector’s shop on the tour, where guest can see and hold version of the badges. <img.src=”Slave Trade” alt=”Slave Badges”

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