Slave clothing description

The ads offered her clues she did not expect. For instance, she was struck by the colorful clothing the slaves wore. Cromwell, aged 45, who ran away from Henry Sherburne Jr., wore a blue cloth coat and breeches, and a scarlet cloth jacket with metal buttons. Jean Paul, a French Creole, who ran away in 1764, wore an earring, a red handkerchief on his head or in his pocket, a blue jacket, striped overalls, and large buckles on his half-boots. Scipio, who ran away from James Dwyer of Portsmouth in 1793, sounds exotically dapper. He was described as wearing a "Saxon blue Frize jacket Lin'd with baize, slash sleeves and small metal buttons, a brown Fustian jacket without sleeves, a pair of scarlet everlasting breeches." The colorful attire, the earrings and buckles, all indicated to Valerie that the slaves may not have retained their African names, but they retained their African love of color and style. "A lot of the slave owners would give their old clothes to the slaves and be surprised to find that they would use the colors so differently, combining stripes and plaids."


"A lot of people seem to think that slavery in Portsmouth, or in New England, was somehow more benign than slavery in the South. They will say to me, ‘You don't mean real slavery, do you?' Of course. Slavery was slavery, and there is no indication that the slaves who lived and worked in Portsmouth were any better treated than they were elsewhere."