The slave trade began as an exchange for British goods on the West Coast of Africa where African men, women and children were shipped directly to the colonies in the New World.
When slaves died, plantation owners refused to allow them to be buried on valuable land, and for that reason, black cemeteries are often found in marginal areas of fields or forests. Graves were randomly dug and marked with daily objects that the spirit might need. In the south, they were also decorated with seashells and pebbles.
In North Carolina there are over 60 graves located at the edge of the woods in the Edwards-Franklin Cemetery. It was restored and dedicated by the Surry County Historical Society on 26 Aug 2010. During the dedication the names of 60 slaves found in historical records of the estate were read out.
A white marble Monument in Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia, honors descendants of Onesimus a runaway slave, whom the apostle Paul received to the faith of Christ. The Monument was placed near the slave graves in 1992 as a joint project of the Bean Creek Baptist Church and the Nacoochee Methodist Church to honor those buried and unknown.
In Woodcock Cemetery, North Attleboro, Massachusetts is the grave of a slave named Caesar.
In memory of Caesar
Here lies the best of slaves
Now turning into dust;
Caesar the Ethiopian craves
A place among the just.
His faithful soul has fled
To realms of heavenly light
And by the blood that Jesus shed
Is changed from Black to White
January 15 he quitted the stage
In the 77 year of his age.
In Foxworth, Mississippi, is the grave of the world’s oldest man and last living slave. Reported to be 130 years old when he died, Sylvester MaGee claimed to have been a slave who fought for both sides in the Civil War. Although his claims are unverified, the county historical society memorialized him in the small churchyard of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church.
Believed to have been the last surviving American Slave, MaGee was born in Carpet, North Carolina, and sold at Enterprise, Mississippi, at the age of nineteen. He is believed to have served in the Civil War at both the Siege of Vicksburg and Champion’s Hill. Few records exist to support his life’s claim, yet some have stated that the detail and clarity with which he recounted his life’s experiences would have been impossible without having experienced it first-hand. Though he did not like to recount the worst of his days gone by, he made it known that his faith helped him make it through.
This memorial is dedicated to Sylvester MaGee, perhaps the last citizen of the United States who possessed first-hand knowledge of both institutionalized Slavery and the Civil War.
Erected 2012 by the Marion County Historical Society
Southern Monument Company
In Mount Vernon, Virginia, near the tomb of George Washington there is a slave burial ground containing 150 graves. Originally enclosed within a fenced area there is now a marker of Georgia marble inscribed:
In Memory of the Many Faithful Colored Servants of the Washington Family, buried at Mount Vernon from 1760-1860. Their Unidentified Graves Surround This Spot 1929.
Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in August, 2012, the Contrabands and Freedman Cemetery is located at 1001 S. Washington St. in Alexandria, Virginia. Escaped slaves who were still the legal property of their masters were labeled as contrabands during the American Civil War and the military occupation of Alexandria. This classification prevented them from being returned to their masters and allowed them to work within the military in a variety of roles including soldiers and sailors.
Approximately 10,000 black slaves were routed to Britain to become servants to entitled society. Scipio Africanus became a servant to the seventh Earl of Suffolk. Loved by the young Earl and his wife he was treated like a son and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Henbury near Bristol, England when he died in 1720 at age 18 years. The gravesite is marked with a painted headstone and footstone with black winged effigies.
The grave markers were restored on April 2007. The epitaph on the headstone reads:
Lieth the Body of
Negro Servant to the Right
Honourable Charles William
Earl of Suffolk and Bradon
Who died the 21st December
1729 Aged 18 Years.
The footstone is inscribed:
I who was Born a PAGAN and a SLAVE
Now Sweetly Sleep a CHRISTIAN in my Grave
What tho’ my hue was dark my SAVIORS sight
Shall Change this darkness into radiant light
Such grace to me my Lord on earth has given
To recommend me to my Lord in heaven
Whose glorious second coming here I wait
With saints and Angels Him to celebrate.
Some slaves did not survive the journey to new lands. This stone identifying Samboo is located near Glasson, Lancashire, England.
A faithful NEGRO who
(Attending his Master form the West Indies)
DIED on his Arrival at SUNDERLAND.
Full sixty Years the angry Winter’s wave
Has thundering dashed this bleak & barren Shore
Since SAMBO’s Head laid in this lonely GRAVE
Lies still & ne’er will hear their turmoil more.
Fully many a Sand bird chirps upon the Sod
And many a Moonlight Elfin round him trips
Fully many a Summer’s Sunbeam warms the Clod
And many a teeming Cloud upon him drips.
But still he sleeps – till the awakening Sounds
Of the Archangel’s Trump new Life impart
Then the GREAT JUDGE his Approbation found’s
Not on Man’s COLOUR but his – WORTH OF HEART.
James Watson Scr. H. Bell del. 1796