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Slavery & Freedom in Maryland

A guide to the history of slavery in Maryland leading up to the Civil War, using materials from the University of Maryland Special Collections in Hornbake Library.

About this Guide

Welcome to the Maryland Room Guide to Slavery & Freedom in Maryland

This guide provides an introduction to special collection resources covering the history of slavery in Maryland.  It highlights primary and secondary sources available in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library, as well as additional online resources. To begin, use the getting started menu below to locate specific materials, or use the tabs at the top of the page to browse the guide.   

The resources covered in this guide are available primarily in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library.  However, the search strategies and resources discussed may serve as starting point for researching broader topics related to slavery in the United States.  Additional materials on slavery in Maryland and beyond are located in the general collections in McKeldin Library

For information about slavery and the American Civil War, visit the American Civil War: Resources in Special Collections guide.  

Image:"Engraving of Africans unloading tobacco on a Chesapeake Bay wharf, ca. 1750"  Taken from Berlin, Ira.  A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland.  (Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Archives, 2008).

Getting Started

There are several places to go to start your research on slavery in Maryland:

  • Books by Topic- A selection of books on slavery, arranged into the following topics: slavery in Maryland, anti-slavery movements, slavery and the economy, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, and books by University of Maryland faculty.

  • Primary Sources- A guide to locating different types of primary sources covering slavery in Maryland, including historical newspapers and slave narratives.

  • Archives and Manuscripts- Information about locating and using archival collections available in the Maryland Room.  These materials are also a great source for primary resources related to related to the history of slavery in Maryland.

  • Online Resources- A list of online resources and digitized collections documenting the history of slavery in Maryland.

    Timeline of slavery in Maryland

    1634- English settlers found St. Mary's City in Southern Maryland.

    1642- Mathias De Sousa, a former indentured servant in Maryland, votes as a freeman in the Maryland Propietary Assembly. 

    1642- The first cargo ship with 13 Africans arrives in St. Mary's City.  The legal status of indentured servants and slaves in Maryland remains in contention.   

    1664- Maryland legalizes slavery.

    1775- The Revolutionary War begins.

    1783- Maryland prohibits the importation of slaves. 

    1783- The Maryland Gazette published "Vox Africanorum", an editorial denouncing the inequality in the newly formed America, which promoted liberty and freedom while enslaving thousands.

    1789- Josiah Henson, believed to have inspired the title character in Uncle Tom's Cabin, is born in Charles County, Maryland.

    1789- Anti-slavery advocates found the Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and for Relief of Poor Negroes and Others Unlawfully Held in Bondage. 

    1796- The Maryland General Assembly liberalizes the state's manumission laws regarding how and when a slave owner can free his/her slaves.

    1802- Maryland General Assembly declares that free black men cannot vote.

    1818- Frederick Douglass is born in Talbout County, Maryland.

    1822- Hariet Tubman is born in Dorchester County, Maryland.

    1831- The Maryland Colonizational Society forms to colonize Maryland blacks in Africa.

    1832- In response to the Nat Turner Revolt, Maryland's legislature prohibits free blacks from entereing the state.

    1838- Frederick Douglass escapes from slavery in Baltimore, publishes his first autiobiography 7 years later.  

    1849- Hariet Tubman escapes from slavery. In the years that follow, she mounts numerous missions into Maryland's Eastern Shore to lead enslaved blacks to freedom.

    1852- Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published.

    1857- The U.S. Supreme Court hands down the Dred Scott decision, which denied African Americans equal rights as citizens.

    1860- The Maryland General Assembly outlaws manumission by deed or will.

    1861- The Civil War begins.

    1862- Slavery is abolished in District of Columbia.

    1863- Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which frees all slaves in the territories currently in rebellion.

    1864- On November 1, slavery is abolished in Maryland.

    1865- Slavery is abolished in all of the states by the 13th Amendment.

    Taken, in part, from Berlin, Ira.  A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland.  (Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Archives, 2008), 27-29