Baltimore’s role in the 1800s slave trade is documented in a new exhibition at the Homewood Museum on the Johns Hopkins University campus in North Baltimore.
In the five decades after the legal end of the international slave trade, from 1808 to the mid-1860s, nearly one million slaves, were uprooted from their jobs and homes in the Upper South — many from Maryland — and sent to the Lower South — Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas.
The exhibition at Homewood reveals this aspect of the slave system. Just west of Charles Street, in what is known today as the Freshman Quad, a slave named Izadod Conner tended a garden and orchard owned by Charles Carroll Jr. and his wife, Harriet Chew Carroll.
Conner, a skilled gardener, and his wife, Cis, a flax-linen spinner, play a role within the broader story of this exhibition, “Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865.”
Conner, his wife and their children, became pawns in this human traffic, part of the interstate slave trade.
“It is interesting to note that Charles Carroll Jr. was insistent that he wanted this particular gardener for Homewood and finally his father gave in,” said Homewood’s curator and director, Julia Rose. “Izadod was born a slave at Doughoregan Manor in Howard County. We have records that show that his wife Cis was a spinner of the linen used in clothing.”
Izadod and Cis Conner were brought to Baltimore at a time when it was an economic hub in the the slave economy. Slave merchants owned pens — often called slave jails — along Pratt Street near today’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards. These places of temporary confinement housed those who would be walked, in iron shackles to ships for transport.
Paula Braver, a former student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, created a localized map with an overlay that shows slave pens, auction sites and slave ship wharves projected over current Inner Harbor sites. The slaves boarded vessels bound for New Orleans, among other ports.
While much of the Homewood exhibit was prepared by the Historic New Orleans Collection and sent on this national tour, the display has been enlarged to explain Baltimore’s specific role. Ralph Clayton, a retired Enoch Pratt Free Library staff member, offered details of Baltimore’s roots in the slave trade in his 2002 book, “Cash for Blood.”
For the exhibit, Central Maryland Blacksmith Guild artisans fabricated reproduction bilboes — a type of ankle restraint — and a slave collar, to place on display. An original bound volume of The Baltimore Sun shows a pair of runaway slave reward ads. A crumbling shoe of a slave child, found tucked behind a brick fireplace in Annapolis’ Hammond-Harwood House, is also on display.
“Slave spiritual traditions included hiding mementos of those who had died in concealed places,” Rose said.
As for the Conners, research has not explained why the wealthy Carroll family chose to send their slave servants to Louisiana 11 years after the 1825 death of Charles Carroll Jr., the master of Homewood.
“The Conners were part of 58 enslaved persons of Carroll ownership who were sent away,” said Rose. “The Carrolls did not outright sell the Conner family. They leased them to a Southern plantation owner near Baton Rouge.”
The Conners were shipped out of Baltimore aboard the brig Harriet in 1836. A copy of the ship’s manifest is on display.
In 1837, the Homewood property was sold to wealthy Baltimore merchant William Wyman, whose name is commemorated in Wyman Park.
Izadod never returned to Maryland; researchers are working to discover his fate. His wife returned to Baltimore at the end of her lease in 1838.
Charles Carroll Jr.’s widow, Harriet Chew, a member of a prominent Philadelphia family, took two of the Conner children, Mary and Joseph, who had been baptized in Baltimore’s St. Peter Pro-Cathedral, and indentured them in Pennsylvania. They were ultimately manumitted, or set free.
Cis and her other children — she had a family of 13 — lived out their years back in Howard County at Doughoregan, and gained freedom only when other slaves were freed in 1864.
“Purchased Lives” is on view through July 27 at Homewood Museum, 3400 N. Charles St.