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 antebellum 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. Note, however, that 25,680 of that number, or 61%, resided in Baltimore City alone. The next highest free black population in this region was Frederick County's 4,957. 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, whose free black population was 4,231 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.