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Runaway advertisement for Frank, August 27, 1771

How did enslaved and free Blacks resist the injustice of slavery during the colonial era?

  • I can articulate how slavery was at odds with the principle of justice.
  • I can explain how enslaved men and women resisted the institution of slavery.
  • I can create an argument supported by evidence from primary sources.
  • I can succinctly summarize the main ideas of historic texts.

Essential Vocabulary

Pamunky (Pamunkey) Virginia Indian tribe in the coastal area of southeastern Virginia. The Pamunkey River is named for the tribe.

Building Context

When enslaved men, women, or children ran away to seek freedom from their unjust condition, slaveholders often published classified advertisements offering rewards for their return. Though the level of detail varies, these advertisements provided small insights into the lives of enslaved individuals. These featured descriptions of the person’s physical appearance, details surrounding their appearance, and a reward for their return. Running away to freedom was a dangerous choice. Many did not succeed and faced cruel physical punishments if they were caught.

Runaway ad for Frank, August 27, 1771
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,, column 2

Run away from the subscriber … a NEGRO FELLOW named Frank, twenty seven Years of Age, five Feet five or six inches high … He has run away several Times, and always passed for a Freeman. As he may possibly try to get out of the country, I hereby forewarn all Matters of Vessels from carrying out the said Slave, at their Peril. I imagine he is [sulking] about Indian Town on Pamunky among the Indians, as one of his former Trips he got himself a Wife amongst them. Whoever brings the said Slave to me shall be handsomely rewarded. DAVID SCOTT.

Comprehension and Analysis Questions

  1. What details do we know about Frank from this advertisement?
  2. Why might the Pamunkey Indians be willing to help Frank secure his freedom?
  3. Based on the evidence of the source, were the laws that governed Frank just?
  4. How did Frank resist the system of enslavement?
  5. Shrink the text: In one sentence, write what this source reveals about enslaved Blacks in colonial Virginia.

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