African American News and Genealogy

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

BCC course explores slavery in Monmouth

Many escaped and fought with the British army in the Battle of Monmouth BY KAREN E. BOWES, Staff Writer MIDDLETOWN - Slavery in Monmouth County was once the norm, especially in the township, Freehold, Tinton Falls and Shrewsbury, where they worked as iron miners, farmers and domestics up until 1865. An expert on the subject, visiting Professor Graham Russell Hodges of Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y., arrived at Brookdale Community College this week, leading students on historic tours of the area and speaking about slavery's impact on the local economy. The author of the book "Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, N.J., 1665-1865," Hodges appeared in the 2005 PBS series "Slavery and the Making of America." During the television series, Hodges spoke about an escaped slave from Shrewsbury who fought for the British at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. Named Titus by his master, the slave renamed himself Tye after escaping. The British army bestowed the honorary title of Col. Tye for his gallantry in battle, and for becoming "one of the war's most feared Loyalists, white or black," Hodges wrote. A local newspaper ran an ad for the runaway slave on Nov. 8, 1775. The owner offered a 3-pound reward for "Titus," described as "about 21 years of age. Not very black, near 6 feet high, had on a gray homespun coat, brown breeches, blue and white stockings." According to Hodges, many other black men from the county fought at the Battle of Monmouth, including some from Middletown. All fought for the British during the battle. Students in Professor Jess Levine's "History of New Jersey" class at Brookdale are also learning about the role religion played in the institution of slavery, as local Christian denominations differed on the topic of slavery's morality. Interestingly, Quakers, historically abolitionists, were divided on the subject in Monmouth County. Col. Tye's former master, John Corlis, was a Quaker and was said to be quite cruel. Both slavery and indentured servitude were legal in New Jersey prior to 1865, when the Emancipation Proclamation ended both forms of human ownership. And while a few slaves were purchased at an auction in Perth Amboy, the vast majority of slaves were born into servitude or traded between friends, Hodges said in an interview on Thursday. "Between 1718 and 1764, 480 slaves from the West Indies were imported into Perth Amboy, located in Middlesex County a few miles from Monmouth," wrote Hodges. "This total averages about 10 per year, and not all went to Monmouth." In 1790, there were 1,596 slaves in Monmouth County. By 1820, about 1,000 slaves lived in the county. Ten years later in 1830, there were 224 slaves, according to census reports. Gradual Emancipation, an 1804 state law that guaranteed slaves their freedom between the ages of 24 and 39, played a large part in the changing numbers. Still, many slave owners found new ways to exploit the recently freed slaves. They waited until the slave's 39th birthday or paid extremely low wages to those former slaves still living in cottages on the slaveholder's property. And by utilizing the recently legalized "cottagers system," a landowner could effectively keep his labor force at a rock bottom price. Hodges has written several books on the topic of slavery, as well as other historical topics, including an account of New York City's very first taxicab drivers.


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