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. <img.src=”Slave Trade” alt=”Slave Badges”

Slave Trade

The Old Slave Mart Museum tells a sadly tragic story of human bondage that was once legally protected by the US Constitution. Slavery began in earnest in Charleston during the 18th century, when rice cultivation became a major source  of wealth. Rice was grown in steamy wetlands filled with mosquitoes which European workers were not used to. In West Africa, people had been planting rice in similar conditions for centuries, and factions there had long been selling people into slavery. So West Africa become the source of a bustling #slave trade that was largely kept intact by three very different groups – New England ship owners, West African slave traders, and Southern planters. The importation of slaves was made illegal in America as of 1808, but the slave population in the Charleston area had grown to the tens of thousands by then, and small markets such as this were carrying on a domestic slave trade until the end of the Civil War. Today, the museum features artifacts and implements from slave life and slave sales, as well as memorials to those poor souls were bought and sold inside.<img src=”Slave Trade” alt=”Charleston History”>