Negotiating the Honor Culture
Students and Slaves at Three Virginia Colleges
His honor was at stake. In 1769 John Byrd, a student at William and Mary, had called for a slave who worked for the college, and the slave did not comply. Only an immediate show of dominance could counter this offense and save Byrd’s reputation. William and Mary’s faculty minutes tell the story:
John Byrd, after calling for a Servant which was at that Time employ’d by the House keeper in the Hall, came into the said Hall with a Horsewhip in his hand and taking hold of his Servant, with his whip lifted up threaten’d to whip him if he did not immediately go with him, the Housekeeper answer’d “that he should not;” upon which the said Byrd replied, “that if she were in the Boy’s Place, he would horsewhip her also;” to which she said, “It was more than he dared to do,” she supposing that he threaten’d to horsewhip her… . Resolved unanimously, that John Byrd, out of regard to his general better deportment be forgiven the above very ill behavior on condition that he ask pardon of the President for … disobedience of their order and ill treatment of their Servant.1
Young Byrd felt he had the right to command the labor of this slave despite the fact that the slave belonged to the school, not to him. As a young man of wealth and status in the deeply hierarchical society of 1760s Virginia, Byrd would also have felt that his right to command the college’s slave superseded that of the housekeeper. In this altercation, Byrd’s honor and manhood were doubly threatened by both the bondsman and the lower-status woman if Byrd did not get his way. This is perhaps one reason why the faculty who looked into this incident decreed forgiveness for Byrd as long as he asked forgiveness of the college president—not, of course, the housekeeper or the slave. Submitting to the discipline of his college president would not tarnish his reputation; apologizing to the housekeeper or the slave certainly would.
Virginia before the Civil War was a society where upper-class men valued their honor very highly. One way to understand the relations between students and slaves on Virginia campuses is to examine how honor and dishonor functioned in Virginia society. This essay looks at how honor shaped the experiences of male students and male slaves at three schools, the College of William and Mary, Hampden-Sydney College, and the University of Virginia, as well as the unique economic and educational opportunities male slaves owned or employed by these schools seized despite a campus culture that sought to emasculate and dishonor them. Orlando Patterson demonstrates that “dishonor” is a key part of the definition of slavery throughout human history. The compulsion about honor that John Byrd exhibits in 1769 was driven in part by the fact that Virginia was a slave society in which the socioeconomic structures of society were based on slavery. Patterson asserts that “wherever slavery became structurally very important, the whole tone of the slave holder’s culture tended to be highly honorific.”2 This was certainly the case in old Virginia, and its colleges were the proving grounds where young men of the upper class defined themselves as “honorable” men.
Slaves who were owned or hired by Virginia colleges from the colonial era through the Civil War negotiated a minefield daily as they attempted to complete work assigned them by college officials while also frequently coming into conflict with students who wanted their own honor recognized and enhanced by the obedience and humility of the slaves around them. Patterson argues that masters gained honor by wielding power over slaves, while the slaves were dishonored in return: “What was universal in the master-slave relationship was the strong sense of honor the experience of mastership generated, and conversely, the dishonoring of the slave condition.” Writing of the Greek experience specifically, Patterson also asserts: “Slaves did more than help in meeting material needs, they also satisfied a psychological need to dominate.”3 Students did not own the college-owned slaves they attempted to control, but they did not need to do so in order to receive the social benefits of mastery. They could take liberties with slaves working on campus that they rarely would have with another man’s slaves because institutionally owned or controlled slaves were overseen by men and women with a limited interest (economic or otherwise) in them.
In order for the students to enhance their honor, the slaves had to be dishonored. Many slaves working on campus, like all slaves, probably did act in the prescribed ways that signaled acceptance of their “dishonored” place. However slaves presented themselves before students, other actions of many slaves on college campuses show that they worked to establish their own honor through seizing economic and educational opportunities that were available to them as slaves working at a college.
When the University of Virginia opened in 1825, the board of visitors, a group of prominent men chosen to oversee the governance and finances of the new university, also decided to hire and purchase slave labor, and the same patterns of violence and abuse that began at William and Mary were repeated on the new campus. The board of visitors hired a janitor (sometimes a slave and sometimes a free black) whose main duties were to ring the bells in the Rotunda at dawn to wake the students and then, according to a former student, to “visit the dormitories in the morning and report violations of the law requiring students to rise early. This was sufficient to make him a man of many sorrows.” Why a man of sorrows? The young men at the university were often not pleased at being awakened at dawn, as the university required. As a result, the poor janitor was “often the object of the malevolent humor of the disturbed student; bucketfuls of water descended upon him from the door-tops, where they had been balanced with diabolical skill, or other unwelcome attentions were bestowed upon him.”4 This former student recalled the questionable treatment of an African American janitor in a humorous tone, but the situation might have been described much differently from the janitor’s point of view. A black janitor was given the responsibility to wake the young men, giving the janitor a kind of power over them, in theory. Students may have felt the need to reassert their more honorable place in campus society through these “unwelcome attentions.”
While the harassment of the janitor may have been at least partially attributed to the high spirits of young men, some cases were more serious. At the University of Virginia, many slaves on campus belonged to the hotelkeepers, who housed and fed students in buildings fronting the Lawn, rather than the university itself. In 1828 one hotelkeeper, Warner W. Minor, brought an offending student, Thomas Boyd, before the faculty for an investigation into his “disorderly conduct in his [Minor’s] dining room.” According to Minor, Boyd asked a slave serving in the dining room for butter and then complained about its quality. Minor stated that the “servant made no reply to him but spoke to another servant in an insolent tone of voice … saying among other things he was surprised that Mr. B. having read so many books should not know the difference between water & butter.” The slave had made these “insolent” comments after Boyd had left the room, but another student overheard them and reported them to him. The next day, when Boyd saw the offending slave in the dining room, he ordered him to leave. When the slave refused, Boyd and a friend assaulted him and tried to force him out of the room. When Minor and his wife rushed into the room because of the commotion, they found blood running freely from the slave’s head and a broken stick in Boyd’s hand. Boyd then stopped immediately and, honoring the code of southern chivalry, begged Mrs. Minor’s forgiveness.5
The faculty minutes record that Boyd “expressed his astonishment and indignation at being called before the faculty for so trifling an affair as that of chastising a servant for his insolence.” The faculty also apparently felt that this incident did not require their attention, because their resolution states that Minor himself was responsible for punishing Boyd’s dining room misconduct. But the drama did not end there. Soon after Boyd’s appearance before the faculty, Boyd challenged Minor to a duel for reporting his misconduct. A crowd gathered as Boyd threatened to shoot Minor, and another student yelled out, “Whip him, Boyd, whip him!” Minor refused to accede to the hotheaded student’s demand for satisfaction and called him a “puppy” before leaving the scene. Two days later, Boyd was again summoned before the faculty. This time, Boyd was moved to a different dormitory altogether.6 Surely no one was happier about Boyd’s relocation than the slaves he terrorized. New slaves would have to deal with his temper and his prickly concern for his honor.
These incidents reveal a great deal about the hostile social climate in which the slaves at Virginia colleges labored. Working with students could be hazardous, especially in the cultural milieu of antebellum Virginia. The upper-class young men who could afford to attend universities considered their personal honor as a most cherished possession. When a former University of Virginia student named Henry Winter Davis reflected back on this period, he observed that the students’ “sense of personal dignity and self-importance was developed in an exaggerated degree.”7 As a result, the students simply could not walk away from a perceived slight to their honor not only from slaves but also from fellow students. While he was a student at the University of Virginia in 1826, Edgar Allan Poe wrote in a letter to his guardian that “a common fight is so trifling an occurrence that no notice is taken of it.”8 The student violence at the University of Virginia was sometimes so uncontrolled that in 1839 a professor was publicly horsewhipped by students, and in the following year another professor was fatally shot in front of his own home on the Lawn by a masked student.9
In this violent environment, where even faculty needed to fear for their safety, where did the slaves stand? They must have developed very good skills at conciliating the students they served every day to avoid the violence of their tempers, so easily set off by the slightest perception of “insolence.” The slaves employed by the hotelkeepers at the University of Virginia did have a master to turn to for redress when they faced problems from students, but the hotelkeepers could not really save their slaves from student abuse while the slaves did their work, even when the hotelkeepers wished. These slaves were often ordered about not by their owners but by volatile students with no long-term—or even short-term—interest in the slaves’ well-being. They were insufficiently protected by their masters, the hotelkeepers, whose own power to shield the slaves was compromised by the hotelkeepers’ positions as university employees who were hired to keep the students happy.
Slaves in these situations must frequently have been worn out with the commands of so many “masters.” One task assigned to slaves at William and Mary was running errands for students. Apparently, there had been a problem with students requiring slaves to run errands for them at all hours of the day, because in 1769 the faculty resolved that “a boy be appointed to go into the Town on errands from the young gentlemen between the hours of eight & twelve o’clock in the morning, and at no other time.”10 This attempt at limiting the time that errands could be run—which was also done at the University of Virginia—was most likely an attempt by the college faculty to assert their right to control the labor of the college’s slaves. Putting a rule like this in place was meant to reduce the kind of conflict that John Byrd had with the housekeeper later that same year over who had superior rights to the labor of college slaves at any given time.11
Students at Hampden-Sydney were just as likely as their William and Mary counterparts to try to compel college-owned slaves to serve students personally. In the “Laws of Hampden-Sidney College,” a pamphlet that appeared about 1821, the students at that school were admonished that “the college servant shall be under the sole discretion of the officers. Complaint may be made to them concerning him. No student shall be allowed to employ him in services other than his stated duty, or on any pretence to chastise him, or treat him with abusive language.”12 This passage in the “Laws” surely describes, as well as it proscribes, student behavior toward the African Americans hired by Hampden-Sydney. When students had complaints about slaves’ work, students were to bring slaves to the faculty and not harass the workers themselves, either physically or verbally. Rules like this one did not do away with hostility toward slaves at Hampden-Sydney, though; an example of this enmity can be found in an 1856 letter from John S. Dyerle to his sister. Concerning the slaves who worked at Hampden-Sydney, Dyerle writes that he feels “like killing every time I see one. Half of our time we cannot get any water &c which it is their duty to bring us.”13 Despite the emotions of students like Dyerle, there are fewer recorded instances of abuse of slaves there than at William and Mary or the University of Virginia. Perhaps the more evangelical campus culture of Hampden-Sydney, a Presbyterian institution, discouraged open violence against slaves, but certainly there may have been a conflict among some students over the demands of Christianity and southern honor.14
In 1849 the faculty at William and Mary also found it necessary to place a statement about college slaves in a pamphlet titled “Laws and Regulations of the College.” The faculty insisted that “students shall be entitled to no other services from the College servants, unless sick, than to have their rooms Cleaned up once a day; their fires lighted, and their Boots or shoes cleaned once a day, and fresh water put in their rooms twice a day.”15 This regulation raises the question of what other services the students had been asking of the college’s slaves. Students who felt that they had a right to command the service of college-owned slaves created conflicts for the slaves, who had certain duties assigned to them by the housekeeper or the faculty but still had to carefully balance the daily commands of the students.
It is not surprising that students felt entitled to order the slaves about, as almost all of the students had come to college from slave-owning homes and were habituated to mastery. The earliest southern college students had a reputation for being a willful, dangerously capricious, arrogant, and sometimes violent lot; these tendencies were made worse by the fact that most of them were teenagers, younger by a few years than modern college students. In his important book, Southern Honor, Bertram Wyatt-Brown asserts that “by age fourteen or so many of them [elite southern boys] had learned to drink, swear, gamble at cards, fight and wrestle, and imitate the mannerisms of their older brothers and fathers.”16 They brought these “manly” habits with them to college. In her study of early southern education, Lorri Glover has noted that “drinking, gambling, sexual experimentation, and dueling and other forms of orchestrated violence were accepted and even encouraged in southern male culture… . This self-mastery distinguished elite men from other members of society and laid the foundations for their dominance over wives, children, and particularly, slaves.” Glover goes on to state that “universities provided the proving grounds on which young southern men could adopt these behaviors and thereby move from boyhood to refined manhood.”17
A few students came to William and Mary accompanied by their own personal slaves; in 1754, for example, 8 out of about 110 students—presumably the wealthiest and most socially prominent—paid a fee to the bursar to board their own slaves at the college.18 Students from prosperous families also brought slaves with them to Hampden-Sydney to look after the students’ needs. By 1793 there were enough student-owned slaves living on campus that the board of trustees saw them as a problem and declared, “Whereas it is represented to this Board that the servants who are allowed to attend the students at the College very often commit great abuses by going from room to room and stealing or taking the property of the students; ordered that no such servant on any pretense whatever be allowed to go into any of the rooms of [the] college but that in which his master lives.”19 While the rampant theft implied by this measure seems unlikely because of the severe punishment slaves suffered for stealing, reports of unoccupied slaves roaming the school may have sparked the board’s displeasure. These sorts of concerns may explain why the University of Virginia did not permit students to bring their own slaves with them to campus; in 1824, just before the first students arrived, the board of visitors (including at that time former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) declared that no student at the new university could “keep a servant, horse or dog.”20 The situation in which some students at William and Mary and Hampden-Sydney had personal slaves to wait on them while others did not may have made those students who did not bring their own manservants more likely to want to command the labor of college-owned slaves. If they could not have a slave of their own at the college, they could still enjoy the social benefits of mastery through their interactions with college slaves and raise, if not equalize, their status with their peers who did bring manservants with them.
Fear of physical violence at the hands of ungovernable young students must have been pervasive among slaves on Virginia campuses. During the early days of the American Revolution, the faculty at William and Mary complained of a “run of ill treatment which has of late been bestow’d by the Boys upon the Servants of the College both Male & Female.”21 The students’ mistreatment of college slaves during the war was possibly exacerbated by the fact that many white Virginians considered slaves natural allies of Great Britain.22 Later, in the nineteenth century, students continued to harass and abuse the college’s slaves. For example, in 1831 the faculty investigated the churlish behavior of student William Robinson. Several students had taken chairs from the Blue Room (in what is today the Wren Building) to their own chambers, which the faculty realized when they assembled there for their regular meeting. Therefore, a professor ordered a slave named Abraham to return all the chairs to the Blue Room, but the students made things difficult for poor Abraham. Eventually, he was able to obtain all the chairs except the one misappropriated by Robinson. The faculty sent Abraham up to Robinson several times with verbal and written messages demanding the return of the chair. Robinson responded to Abraham by “using very threatening language toward him” and also “threatened him with violence.” Finally, Robinson himself was called down to the Blue Room to explain his impertinence toward the faculty’s repeated requests. Robinson blamed his behavior on Abraham, whom he called a “somber mute.” Did the slave relay to Robinson their repeated demands for the chair? the faculty asked. Robinson replied, “It is possible he may have done so in his unintelligible way, but I really did not hear him.”23 Here again is a case where a slave was caught dangerously between the demands of different “masters.” Abraham could not ignore the orders of the faculty, but by following them he faced the threat of violence from a volatile student. Is it any wonder, therefore, that Abraham may have tried to protect himself by being “unintelligible” in passing on orders to the student?
The slaveholding culture in which Virginia college students grew up permitted and sometimes demanded violence toward African Americans. Therefore, when the faculty did attempt to regulate student behavior toward slaves, the students felt their rights or their honor had been compromised. This attitude is clearly expressed in a student newspaper titled The Owl. The Owl was only published once, in January 1854, but its one issue devotes considerable space to racial issues. In one particular cartoon, titled Negroes Rejoice, an African American man dances above this caption: “Chapter V. Sec. 13 is not abolished, which says ‘no Student shall abuse strike or injure negroes. Not even if they are grossly impertinent Ahem! This law savors of Northern manufacture, or perhaps it originated in some classic author; Horace (Greely) for instance.’”24 William and Mary had recently updated its student regulations, and apparently there had been some debate about whether the college should retain this regulation, which read in full, “No student shall, by words or blows, insult a fellow-student, nor a citizen; nor shall he abuse, strike or injure negroes.”25 Perhaps some students argued that they should have the right to physically punish a slave on campus who was “grossly impertinent.” When the faculty refused to change the regulation, the writers of The Owl chose to paint the professors as abolitionists, comparing them to Horace Greeley, the well-known liberal editor of the New York Tribune who promoted the antislavery movement.
This problem of “too many masters” was common among institutionally owned slaves, who dealt with concerns uncommon to individually owned slaves. Of course, all slaves were in constant danger of poor treatment; the economic interest of the owner was not an infallible incentive for decency. Many slaves were terribly abused and some even killed by their owners. Further, the most “mild” forms of slavery still denied slaves their freedom, something more precious than the best clothes or a full stomach. But the individual slave owners’ economic interest, sometimes coupled with a moral or philosophical concern for the welfare of their slaves, did usually encourage the slave owners to provide their bondsmen and bondswomen with the basic necessities of life. Historian Philip D. Morgan notes, “Slaves faced all sorts of insecurities—about whether they might be sold, or whipped, or have to endure some fresh humiliation … , but the one compensation for such dependence was that a slave generally could expect a minimal subsistence. The master had an obvious and real incentive to see that the slave survived.”26 In other words, slaves were too valuable a possession to be denied the necessities of life—food, clothing, shelter, and basic medical care. Masters would also shield slaves from the demands of other whites who had no legitimate claim on their labor. Again, this would all be in the owners’ self-interest. In contrast, slaves who were owned by institutions rather than by individual owners often lacked even the minimal protection of an owner’s pecuniary interest. In the broader context of institutional slavery, this problem arises frequently; slaves owned by church congregations, by charity schools, and by the state, as well as slaves owned by colleges, faced this problem.27
William and Mary’s slaves were usually under the day-to-day control of a steward, housekeeper, or member of the faculty. These individuals directed the labor of their institution’s slaves and controlled the quality of their lives: their food, clothing, and shelter; when and where they worked; and whether or not they would live with their families or be separated from them. Some-times the managers of institutional slaves worked energetically to provide them with a decent standard of living; other times, they used their authority to exploit the slaves for the managers’ benefit. The well-being of the slaves, therefore, depended entirely on the integrity, diligence, and compassion of those who were appointed to oversee them. The great complication at William and Mary, Hampden-Sydney, the University of Virginia, and other universities was the student body, who felt entitled to employ college-owned slaves but had no real interest in their welfare. Faculties enacted rules to protect the slaves owned by universities but had to balance the needs of slaves with the demands of students.
But if the situation of slaves at Virginia colleges was difficult in many ways, some of them also enjoyed opportunities unique to their situation. In a larger discussion of southern honor among antebellum southern men, Craig Friend and Lorri Glover write, “White male mastery and the code of honor provided a variety of practices designed to subordinate and brutalize black men … [but] black men resented and sometimes violently resisted such denials of manhood.” They continue, “Black men sought to empower themselves through education, financial autonomy, and physical escape from slavery.”28 There are important examples of this kind of black resistance on college campuses as well. Slaves at William and Mary, for instance, achieved some “financial autonomy” by earning money raising their own produce or doing extra work. Between 1804 and 1806 Lemon was paid five times for barrels of corn, earning $20.33.29 William and Mary must have been among those nineteenth-century owners who allotted to their slaves plots of land to raise crops that they could call their own. This was work the slaves did in their limited free time, often on Sundays. Like other such owners, the college sometimes became the slaves’ customer.
At Hampden-Sydney, economic opportunity can also be seen in the case of Billy Brown, referred to in some records as College Billy, who would become one of the longest-serving employees in the history of Hampden-Sydney. Brown took advantage of his position as a hired slave at the college to make money by doing extra work for students in his free hours and ultimately was able to purchase his own freedom. In 1824 Brown petitioned the legislature to allow him to remain in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a free black man. By law, all slaves freed after May 1, 1806, had to leave Virginia within a year or petition the legislature for permission to remain. Although his petition was accompanied by a certificate that testified to his “unsullied character for probity & good demeanor” that had been signed by sixteen prominent county residents, it was denied by the legislature. Undaunted, Brown and his white supporters submitted a second petition in 1825, which also included recommendations from the leading men of Prince Edward County, who wrote that Brown had “been for many years the servant for Hampden-Sydney College & demeaned himself with great propriety & integrity.” On this second attempt, the House of Delegates passed the petition, only to have it fail in the Senate.30
By law, then, Billy Brown was required to leave Virginia forever, but it does not appear that he did so. There are scattered references to a college servant named Billy or Old Billy from that time through 1851.31 Billy Brown’s connection with Hampden-Sydney College helped him to obtain his freedom and gain the respect of the powerful white leaders of the community. He was in a unique position to earn extra money from the students and worked among men who allowed him to be paid for work he did in his off-hours. While these opportunities for earning money were not limited to college-owned slaves, those slaves who belonged to or were hired by colleges did have numerous opportunities for earning money of their own. Brown was able to buy his freedom, and although he could never enjoy it in complete safety because of the actions of the Virginia legislature, he still had the support of his local community. Hampden-Sydney supported him in a remarkably humane fashion throughout this saga; the college allowed him to keep money he earned from extra work initially and then continued to employ him as a free black for decades, despite his illegality.
Slaves at the University of Virginia also took advantage of living in close quarters with the students to make extra money. One historian of the university writes that “the students began to turn surreptitiously to the kitchens of the professors, whose cooks were always ready to earn, in this furtive way, a few dollars by providing a dinner or a supper, sometimes at their master’s expense… . Breakfast was smuggled into the dormitories by a shrewd little black boy … with a covered basket ostensibly selling apples.”32 These dealings between the students and the professors’ slaves benefited both parties, with only the larders of the professors being a little lighter, as the author implies. It is just as likely, however, that these cooks used the students’ money to furnish these extra meals without pilfering from the slaves’ owners.
As Friend and Glover state, empowerment through religious and secular education could also be an important way that slaves resisted oppression and asserted their own manhood. While African Americans were excluded from formal education on campus, those with a desire to learn could pick up more than the average slave might on a plantation or farm. For example, the large concentration of African Americans at the University of Virginia attracted many Sunday schools for the university slaves, some of which were conducted by professors, including John B. Minor and Gessner Harrison.33 There were also many visiting preachers who were attracted to the university both for its students and its large African American population. For example, in 1834 Gessner Harrison and Eliza Harrison wrote of a Mr. Cobbs, who visited the university on Sunday nights “to meet all the coloured people of the University with a view of giving them religious instruction… . [T]hey attend very regularly and behave themselves in a decent orderly manner.”34 This letter implies that many African Americans freely chose to attend the sermons and Sunday schools brought to campus for their benefit.
Secular education was also within reach for some blacks on campus. In 1928 W. T. Greenhow wrote that his father, George Greenhow, had learned to read and write while working as a free black janitor at William and Mary before the Civil War. Terry Meyers observes that the elder Greenhow “liked to boast (with a fine sense of irony, obviously) that he was ‘the only negro ever educated at William and Mary’—he had been taught to read and write by one of the students in return for Mrs. Greenhow’s doing his laundry.”35 This opportunity for education was not limited to free African Americans. For example, William Gibbons was the slave of University of Virginia professor Henry Howard in the late antebellum period. His daughter later recalled that he worked hard to learn how to read and that he educated himself by being around the professor’s books and by listening in on the conversations of university students. Gibbons’s innate talents, combined with the education he gleaned in these ways, helped him to become the first African American minister of the First Baptist Church of Charlottesville. Later, he moved to Washington, D.C., to minister to a congregation there and took theology classes at Howard University. Gibbons and his daughter saw his long years of work at the University of Virginia as an educational opportunity.36 His educational advantages made him a leader of the black community after the Civil War.
In conclusion, the situation of slaves who worked on Virginia college campuses in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries differed from the experiences of more traditional slaves in important ways. In particular, slaves on campus, whether owned or hired, were often the victims of students’ fragile code of honor. As elite young men usually in their teens, students at Virginia colleges before the Civil War were still developing their own reputations among their peers. Though their rights to command the slaves on campus were limited, they frequently sought power over them in order to enjoy the social benefits of mastery and to enhance their own honor among their fellow students. Because slaves on campus lived daily with young men in this developmental stage, they probably were overworked (by serving students on demand) and faced more violence than slaves owned by traditional masters or mistresses. This problem of too many “masters” was exacerbated by the fact that those who did have the official right to the labor of college slaves, whether a board of trustees or a housekeeper, had a limited personal stake in the well-being of the slaves. Even those who owned the slaves, like the University of Virginia hotelkeeper Warner Minor, still needed to balance their economic interest in shielding their slaves from abuse by students with their job requirement to please those same students.
While students enhanced their honor by exhibiting power over slaves on campus, slaves resisted the inherent dishonor of their situations. Despite the drawbacks, slaves at universities also enjoyed opportunities to earn money by doing extra work for students or for the university itself. Other African Americans found ways while working on campus to gain some education, which was both useful and a source of pride later in their lives. Under adverse circumstances, slaves made a clean, warm, and comfortable life possible for the students and faculty who lived and worked at Virginia colleges, while at the same time they resisted the honor culture that would deny their manhood and seized opportunities to improve their own lives.
1. “Journal of the Meetings of the President and Masters of William & Mary College, November 16, 1769,” William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine, 1st series, 13, no. 2 (1904): 137.
2. Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), 79.
3. Ibid., 11, 88.
4. John S. Patton, Jefferson, Cabell and the University of Virginia (New York: Neale Publishing Company, 1906), 119–24.
5. Minutes of the General Faculty, 1825–1970, 151–54, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
7. Charles Coleman Wall Jr., “Students and Student Life at the University of Virginia, 1825–1861” (PhD diss., University of Virginia, 1978), 113.
8. Edgar Allan Poe to John Allan, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1826, in ibid., 88.
9. Thomas Perkins Abernathy, Historical Sketch of the University of Virginia (Richmond: Dietz Press, 1948), 12.
10. “Journal of the Meetings of the President and Masters of William and Mary College, August 28, 1769,” William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine, 1st series, 13, no. 2 (1904): 135.
11. Philip Alexander Bruce, History of the University of Virginia, 1819–1919: The Lengthened Shadow of One Man (New York: Macmillan, 1920), 1:209. Students at the University of Virginia were asked to make errand requests to slaves only between 2:45 and 3:00 p.m. daily.
12. “Laws of Hampden-Sidney College,” pamphlet, ca. 1821, in History of Hampden-Sydney College, vol. 1, From the Beginnings to the Year 1856, by Herbert Clarence Bradshaw (Durham, N.C.: Fisher-Harrison Corp., 1976), 444.
13. James Luckin Bugg Jr., “Student Life at Hampden-Sydney in the Ante-bellum Days,” 46–47, Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, ca. 1940, Eggleston Library, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, Virginia.
14. Many historians have argued that the southern culture of honor conflicted with evangelical Christianity. See Anne C. Loveland, Southern Evangelicals and the Social Order, 1800–1860 (Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1980); Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740–1790 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982); Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2003).
15. “Laws and Regulations of the College,” 1849, folder 5, William and Mary Papers, E. G. Swem Library Special Collections Research Center, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. Hereafter cited as Swem Library.
16. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 165.
17. Lorri Glover, “‘Let Us Manufacture Men’: Educating Elite Boys in the Early National South,” in Southern Manhood: Perspectives on Masculinity in the Old South, ed. Craig Thompson Friend and Lorri Glover (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004), 29.
18. “Bursar’s Book, 1754–69,” Swem Library.
19. Alfred J. Morrison, ed., The College of Hampden-Sidney: Calendar of Board Minutes, 1776–1876 (Richmond, Va.: Hermitage Press, 1912), 42.
20. “Minutes of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia,” 73, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
21. “Journal of the Meetings of the President and Masters of William & Mary College,” William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine, 1st series, 15, no. 2 (1906): 138–39.
22. Virginians had good reason to suspect their slaves of favoring Great Britain, because in 1775 Virginia’s last royal governor, Lord Dunmore, threatened to free any adult male slave who left his master to fight for the British. Thousands of slaves heeded Dunmore’s call. Good resources on this subject are Sylvia R. Frey, Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991); and Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).
23. “Faculty Minutes, 1830–36,” in “William and Mary College Historical Notes,” by Mary R. M. Goodwin, 360–61, manuscript report, Colonial Williamsburg Research Department.
24. The Owl, January 1854, Swem Library; thanks go to Professor Terry L. Meyers for bringing this newspaper to my attention in “A First Look at the Worst,” background paper for the Faculty Assembly of the College of William and Mary, September 2007.
25. “Laws and Regulations of William & Mary College, at Williamsburg, Virginia,” ca. 1852–53, 9, Swem Library.
26. Philip D. Morgan, “Slaves and Poverty,” in Down and Out in Early America, ed. Billy G. Smith (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004), 121.
27. Jennifer Bridges Oast, “Forgotten Masters: Institutional Slavery in Virginia, 1680–1860” (PhD diss., College of William and Mary, 2008).
28. Craig Thompson Friend and Lorri Glover, introduction to Friend and Glover, Southern Manhood, xi.
29. “Bursar’s Book 1804–1806,” Swem Library.
30. Legislative petitions, December 9, 1824, and December 4, 1825, Archives Division, Virginia State Library, quoted in Bradshaw, History of Hampden-Sydney College, 360–61; Melvin Patrick Ely, Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 546n97.
31. Bradshaw, History of Hampden-Sydney College, 361.
32. Bruce, History of the University of Virginia, 235.
33. Gayle M. Schulman, “Slaves at the University of Virginia,” 2004, 22.
34. Gessner Harrison and Eliza Harrison to Mary Jane Harrison, Charlottesville, December 13, 1834, in papers of Harrison, Smith, and Tucker in the possession of Gayle Schulman, cited in ibid., 13–14.
36. Schulman, “Slaves,” 1–2, 24, 33.