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Thomas Henry Barnes: In his own words

February 11, 2012

The following is an excerpt from Thomas Henry Barnes’ autobiographical manuscript. This section is about his father, Henry Barnes, who was a slave in Hagerstown and later became a free man.

“Henry Barnes was born of slave parents in or near Richmond Va. about the year 1818. Have no definite record of his parents. When but a boy he was bought by a wealthy resident of Hagerstown Md. whoes name was Barnes. an English man by birth — this man a slave holder would own only young black men, — Each one he would cause to learn a trade, — (Mechanical) — and contrary to the laws of the state (at that time) — he taught his slaves to read and write and the first rules of arithmetic. His business was to hire or contract these slaves out according to their trades, — and their education would enable them to keep time and record of work, — to report the same to him at conclusion of contract. About the year 1835. Barnes’ realizing that he had grown old and infirm. Called in his slaves nineteen in number, — secretly at night he confered — with them stating that he had not long to live — and as they had served him well. he had concluded to liberate them — handing each one their individual free papers, and two hundred dollars in money. He admonished and demanded that they immediately that night —, go to the barn take horses and wagons sufficient to carry them across the state line into Pennsylvania. leave the same at a place he had designated and aranged, and from their with all haist and caution — move on to Canada. He also earnestly requested that each one take his name as their own. to which they solemnly and readily consented. — thus then and their — nineteen young colored men took the name of Barnes. now go at once with all haste and caution — as his family. his heirs, in the morning, learning what had been done would take immediate steps to ajudge him insane.”

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— Courtesy of Fanny Crawford

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