But this project also explores freedom at Washington College.

Free black people worked at the College. Enslaved people were manumitted by College owners, some of whom were part of an organized abolitionist movement on the Eastern Shore. Other enslaved people freed themselves by running away. And we have followed the stories of some individuals beyond emancipation, examining the lives of Civil War veterans formerly claimed by College owners, as well as efforts to continue a form of enslavement through the illegal apprenticeship of African-American children.

In a 2013 interview, Professor Wilder said of college campuses, “people of color have always been here.” Yet at Washington College their stories–their actual existence–has been erased. We have unearthed an enormous variety of original documents–Board of Visitors and Governors Meeting Minutes, Presidential records, freedom certificates, soldiers’ pension records, census data, wills, letters, newspaper articles, and advertisements for fugitive slaves. This search has taken us to the Maryland State Archives, Delaware, the Kent County Courthouse, the Kent County Historical Society, and our own College archives. With this effort, we are recreating the stories of the enslaved and free African Americans of Washington College.


I would like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their help and support:

Joan Andersen, Mary Alice Ball, Tony Cohen, Maria Day, Patrice DiQuinzio, Evie Ebert, Adam Goodheart, Stephanie Gresham, Chris Haley, Michael Harvey, Kurt Landgraf, Marcia Landskroener, Kevin McKillop, Ken Miller, Pat Nugent, Lindsey Sheldon, Janet Sorrentino, and Amanda Tuttle-Smith.

Delaware Public Archives, Kent County Courthouse, Kent County Historical Society, Maryland State Archives, Washington College Archives.

Richard E. Holstein ’68 Program in Ethics

And a special thank you to my website designer, Greg Waddell of Waddell Creative. 

And to my students who worked on the project with me. 


Dr. Carol Wilson is the Arthur A. and Elizabeth R. Knapp Professor of American History and has taught at Washington College since 1991. She is the author of The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans. (Rutgers University Press, 2007), and Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865. (University Press of Kentucky, 1994). She has been a contributor/consultant to National Public Radio, the PBS series History Detectives, the NBC series Who Do You Think You Are? and the 2013 film Twelve Years a Slave.

Student Researchers

Between 2018 and 2020, twenty undergraduate student researchers worked on various aspects of the project.

Class of 2019  

Patrick Jackson
Juliet Kaczmarczyk
Katie Reinl
Will Sade
Sara Underwood
Jennifer Walls

Class of 2020

Maria Betancur
Alex Ramos
Cassy Sottile
Alexis Young

Class of 2021

Emilee Daniel
Caroline Draper
Rose Stevens
Charlie Wittich
Paris Young 

Class of 2022

Daniel Brown
Julia Fuchs
Salamata Jalloh
Tommy Pontius

Class of 2023

Queen Cornish