Who was the subject of advertisements in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A CARGO OF TWO HUNDRED and EIGHTEEN WINDWARD COAST NEGROES.”
The images in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal testified to the prevalence of advertisements about enslaved people in that publication. One column in the June 30, 1772, edition, for instance, featured five consecutive advertisements adorned with depictions of enslaved people for sale or fleeing for their freedom from their enslavers. Three of those announced upcoming sales of “WINDWARD COAST NEGROES,” “PRIME, HEALTHY, YOUNG NEGROES, Of the COROMANTEE and FANTEE Countries,” and “CHOICE and HEALTHY NEGROES, ARRIVED … directly from the GOLD COAST.” The other two encouraged colonizers to engage in surveillance of Black people to determine if anyone they encountered matched the description of James, “a likely, young Mulatto man,” Cato, “a stout negro man, well known in Charles-Town,” or “a negro boy named JAMEY, about eighteen years of age.” The advertisers offered rewards for the capture and return of James, Cato, and Jamey. In addition, they threatened to prosecute “with the utmost rigour of the law” anyone who aided those men.
Throughout the remainder of the four-page standard issue and the two-page supplement, six other advertisements incorporated woodcuts of enslaved people. None of them depicted any particular person; instead, they were stock images that Charles Crouch, the printer, provided for advertisers. In contrast, only five real estate notices included woodcuts of houses, also stock images. Only three advertisements for freight or passage had woodcuts of ships at sea. Although advertisements about enslaved people did not constitute the majority of advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, they did account for a sizeable minority of paid notices. Furthermore, the images that accompanied many advertisements about enslaved people made them the most visible content in a publication that almost never included images with news items and only occasionally included images with other advertisements. Those images demonstrated that a good portion of the business undertaken in the printing office related directly to perpetuating slavery. Crouch generated significant revenues from slave traders announcing auctions and enslavers offering rewards for the capture and return of fugitives who seized their own liberty.