William Green (former slave)

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William Green was a slave in the nineteenth century. He wrote a narrative of his life as a slave, and his subsequent escape from his master. His narrative was published in 1853. There is no known record of his date of birth.

Childhood[edit]

William Green was born in Oxford Neck, Maryland. He was born three months before his mother was freed and so he was brought into the world a slave. At the death of his mother's old mistress he became the property of Mr. Nicholas Singleton. Mr. Singleton was planning on going to New Orleans and he was going to take the young William with him. William's mother did not want him to go that far south, so she managed to convince Mr. Singleton to sell William to Edward Hamilton. A man who William described in his narrative as: "...one of those quiet, peaceable kind of people, who mind their own business, and let other people's alone." William came into Mr. Hamilton's possession at the age of eight.

A new master[edit]

When Mr. Hamilton's daughter Henrietta Hamilton married some years later, William became a part of her dowry and was given to her husband, Dr. Solomon Jenkings. William found the doctor to be a very mean-spirited man when compared to Mr. Hamilton and openly opposed him on some occasions. William was safe from any punishment the doctor may have inflicted on him however, because William was Henrietta's favorite slave and she would berate her husband for harming him. William's opposition to the doctor included ignoring his commands, sneaking out at night to watch "Husking Matches", showing up late for work, and, on one occasion, savagely beating the doctor when he cracked a whip at William. William would not be safe forever as Henrietta soon died and he no longer had the protection that he once had.

Escape[edit]

One day the doctor ordered William to retrieve a box from the local jail and to bring it back to him in a wheelbarrow. William knew what the doctor was planning and went off on his errand. He did not go to the jail and instead went to a friend who hid him for a few days while he planned his escape. He and two other slaves decided they would make their way to Philadelphia by crossing the countryside and catching a boat along the Delaware river. From there they would catch another boat to New York and attain their freedom. The night they departed they paddled across a small river and started heading north towards a friend who could help them to the boat known only as "Aunt Sarah". When they arrived at her house she was not there and they needed to catch the boat that day or else it would be about a month before it would return. To their dismay, William and his companions missed the boat but were told that they could catch it if they ran another five miles up the river. They managed to overtake the boat and the captain hauled them on. It took two days to reach Philadelphia, and another two on a separate boat going to New York. After reaching New York they were harbored by Dr. Osgood until he could find them a place to work.

Later life[edit]

Thirteen years later William was working a steady job and had gotten married. His narrative gives no information as to whom he married and what job he was holding down but he did state he was doing well and had been, "...blessed with four fine children." The date of his death is unknown.