James Henry Young labors for the College in slavery and in freedom, 1848-1864

Dublin Core


James Henry Young labors for the College in slavery and in freedom, 1848-1864


Slaves; Slave labor; Slave Hiring system; Master and Servant
Jesuits--History--19th century; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--War work


On January 9, 1848, an enslaved man named James Henry Young began working at Georgetown College as a domestic servant in the dormitories. Young belonged to a local woman named Mary B. Hook, but first appears in the financial account of Hook's brother, Jeremiah Bronaugh, as "his servt Jas H. Young."

Although the account was in Bronaugh's name, it was Hook who collected Young's wages for several years. In November 1852, however, Hook agreed to sell the freedom papers of Young and his mother to the College. While the pair were now technically free, Young had to work off the cost of his and his mother's freedom, $119.88, before taking possession of their papers.

Young continued to labor for Georgetown as a free man for more than a decade, remaining at the College until May 5, 1864. Over the course of a fifteen-year career in the nation's capital, Young moved from slavery to debt peonage to freedom. His life illustrates that even freedom came at a great cost under American slavery. 


Georgetown University Archive


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Cory Young


Georgetown University Library










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The following is not a complete transcription of the ledgers, but rather a selection of the most relevant passages: 

"Jeremia Bronaugh on acct of his servt Jas H. Young." 

“copy, viz:- N.B. Octr 1st. 1848:- I agreed to give James 75 cents pr month, from this date, as pocket money for himself,.........during my pleasure. Thos M. Jenkins, Tres.”

April 11, 1849: “Note: James is to get $1. pr mo: for himself. by order of Fr T. M. Jenkins, from date,”

January 9, 1850: "Cr By 5 Mos wages ending at $9 Due Mary B. Hook"

November 11, 1852: “To cash advanced to obtain the freedom papers of the above James H. Young & also the freedom papers of his mother from his late owner Mrs Mary B. Hook, which papers are to remain in the Possession of the Geo: Town College Authorities;- till he has paid the amount advanced, viz one hundred & nineteen dollars & eighty eight cents, by Services at the rate of ten dollars a month from this date, after which the freedom papers as above stated will be given to him  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . = 119.88

To cash for ^fees of freedom papers  .  .  .  .  4.50”

“N. B. Father Maguire, Prest, has agreed to give James $12. pr month from the 1st of November 1853.”

October 1, 1863: “His wage is $15. Per month, from this date.

May 5, 1864: “left in the morning of this day”

Original Format




Georgetown University Archive, “James Henry Young labors for the College in slavery and in freedom, 1848-1864,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 14, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/115.