The Last Slave

June 9, 1866


A young black man is being held as a slave in a store in Richmond. White Southerners are confused as to how this is possible under the watch of the Freedmen's Bureau.


The last individual detained as a chattel in shape of man, and black at that, is "held to service" at a store nearly opposite the Spotswood Hotel. How is it that he has escaped the attention of philanthropists and Freedmen's Bureau, we know not. But certain it is, though the shackles have fallen from the limbs of all blacks, they still cling to this boy with a tenacity that, we apprehend, defies the Bureau itself. One can't help pitying this poor little fellow, solitary and alone as he is in his enslavement. This sentiment is heightened by the fact that he is understood to be scantily supplied with clothing; indeed, it is said he hasn't a change of drapery. Yet never was the cheerfulness and good humor of the African character more forcibly exhibited than by this little fellow. His duties expose him to great hardship and to all sorts of weather- yet he maintains a most impurturbable expression of good humor and content. He must have an iron constitution. His owners, with all their neglect, it is said, are much attached to him, and it would take a great effort to get him off from his "masters;" for they are indeed nothing else. Nothing but their mutual attachment and the evident contentment of the poor boy prevents us from turning Abolitionist, and moving Heaven and earth to break the chains that bind the limbs of this last of the bondsmen on the soil of America.
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Brooke Beam




“The Last Slave,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 17, 2022,