Beneath the Underground: The Flight to Freedom. Icons used in advertisements for runaway slaves by the Planter's Advocate (P.G. Co., ca. 1850s)
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  • Maryland's great variety in geography and population created a unique environment for slave flight. Individual county studies examine the unique features of each county, the strategies used by fleeing slaves, what aid or difficulties were available, and what sources were used in our study.

    During the period of this study, 1830-1860, Maryland had the highest free black population of all the states. In fact, by 1860, the state's free blacks were the largest in the nation in terms of both rural and urban locales. Proportionally, Maryland's blacks ranked near the top as well. In antebellum Maryland, the enslaved population was concentrated in the southern counties: Prince George's County, Charles County, St. Mary's County, Anne Arundel County, and Montgomery County. By 1860, the approximately 46,000 slaves in the counties of southern Maryland, outnumbered those found in all other regions of the state combined. However, the southern counties had a relatively small free black population. The central Maryland areas of Frederick County, Carroll County, Baltimore County, Harford County, Howard County, and Baltimore City, have the largest free black populations by a wide margin. These counties held over 42,000 free blacks, which was more than the total found in the rest of the state. The central Maryland region is most intriguing as it represented a crossroads of sorts. Baltimore County and Baltimore City were paradoxically both hubs for free blacks and bastions of slaveholding. In Central Maryland, the percentage of slaves as a proportion of the total black population decreased in the mid nineteenth-century. The free black population of Central Maryland counties grew more quickly, but often the enslaved population decreased. With each passing year, the disparity between the two castes of blacks widened. However, friendship and kinship ties transcended social caste and bound all black Marylanders together. 


    Allegany Anne Arundel Baltimore Baltimore City Calvert Caroline Carroll Cecil
    Charles Dorchester Frederick Garrett Harford Howard Kent Montgomery
    Prince George's Queen Anne's Saint Mary's Somerset Talbot Washington Wicomico Worcester

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