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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  • Unidentified African-American cook, St. Mary's Co. [?], c. 1860, MSA SC 1353-143During the period of this study, 1830 - 1860, Maryland ranked first among all states in free black population. In fact, by 1860, the state's free blacks were the largest such population in the nation, even without considering those in Baltimore City. Proportionally, Maryland's blacks ranked near the top too. Within the state of Maryland, by the antebellum era, the enslaved population was concentrated in the southern counties (Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's, Anne Arundel, and Montgomery). By 1860, in fact, the approximately 46,000 slaves in southern Maryland, outnumbered those found in all other regions of the state combined. When the free black population is considered, we find the Southern counties near the bottom. The Central Maryland counties of Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore County, Harford, Howard, and Baltimore City, rank at the top - by far. And, similar to the slaves of the southern counties, the greater than 42,000 free blacks of the central counties are more than the total found throughout the rest of the state. The Central Maryland Region is most intriguing as it represents a crossroads of sorts, particularly Baltimore County and Baltimore City, which together and at once represent a hub for free blacks, and a bastion of slaveholding Durability aside, enslavement was a status of shrinking application to blacks in central Maryland. The free black population of central Maryland counties grew faster, and often at the expense of, the enslaved population. With each passing year, the disparity between the two castes of blacks grew wider. Transcending social caste, however friendship and kinship ties bound all black Marylanders together


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