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Slavery in Savannah, Part I Slavery in Colonial Savannah

Carolina Colony 1710 Thb.jpg
Carolina & Florida, circa 1710
Schenck, Peter. Tabula Mexicae et Floridae: terrarium Anglicarum, et anteriorum Americae insularum, item cursuum et circuituum fluminis Mississipi dicti. Map. Amstel [Amsterdam]: P. Schenk, circa 1710. From Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3300.ma001007 (accessed 31 May 2007). Used with permission.

PeterGordon Thb.jpg
Savannah, 1734
Gordon, Peter. A view of Savannah as it stood the 29th of March 1734. Map. 1734. From Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3924s.pm001305 (accessed 31 May 2007). Used with permission.

Georgia Colony 1756 Thb.jpg
Georgia & Carolina, 1756
Homann Erben (Firm). America Septentrionalis a Domini d’Anville
in Galliis edita nunc in Anglia. Coloniis in interiorem Virginiam deductis nec non Fluvii Ohio cursu aucta notisque georgraphicis et historicis illustrate. Sumptibus Homanniorum Heredum. Map. Noribergae: 1756. From Maps of North America, 1750-1789, 68, Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3300.ar006801 (accessed 31 May 2007). Used with permission.

The Colony of Georgia was established by a Royal Charter granted by King George II in 1732. The charter provided for the new colony’s governing body in the form of a board of Trustees. The charter did not contain any wording regarding the use of slavery in the Colony of Georgia.

Under the leadership of General James Edward Oglethorpe, one of the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia, the new colony and its first village, Savannah, were settled in February 1733. The Colonial Records and Oglethorpe’s letters reporting on the Colony’s progress to the Trustees in England document the use of slaves from South Carolina to clear the land and build the settlers' first houses.

Though slaves were used in the initial settlement of Savannah, the Trustees wished the colonists to do their own work. In 1735, the Trustees proposed an act banning slavery in the Colony of Georgia to the Royal government on the grounds that the presence of slaves would make Georgia vulnerable to foreign enemies. After receiving the advice of the Privy Council and the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, the King of England approved the act and it was ratified on April 3, 1735.

In 1749, after years of pressure by the inhabitants of Georgia who claimed they were at a disadvantage to the other colonies due to the ban on slavery, the Trustees recommended the repeal of the act of 1735 banning slavery and the passage of a new act limiting the use of slaves for primarily agricultural purposes. The new act went into effect on January 1, 1750, and slavery was legally permitted in Georgia.

After the Trustees relinquished their charter and Georgia became a Royal colony, the General Assembly met in Savannah as the Colony’s governing body. One of the first acts passed by the General Assembly was the adoption of a legal Slave Code “For the better Ordering and Governing Negroes and other Slaves in this Province” on March 7, 1755. Georgia’s first slave code was based on South Carolina’s 1740 slave code, commonly known as the “Negro Act.”

Primary Documents: 
Establishment of the Colony of Georgia
  • Georgia's Charter of 1732
Settlement of Savannah
  • Excerpts from General James Oglethorpe's Letters to the Trustees from Savannah, 1733
Slavery Banned in Colony of Georgia
  • “AN ACT for rendering the Colony of Georgia more Defencible by Prohibiting the Importation and use of Black Slaves or Negroes into the same,” 1735
Slavery Legalized in Colony of Georgia
  • “AN ACT for repealing an Act Intituled (An Act for rendering the Colony of Georgia more defensible by prohibiting the Importation and Use of Black Slaves or Negroes into the same) & for permitting the Importation and Use of them in the Colony under proper Restrictions and Regulations, and for other Purposes therein mentioned,” 1750
First Georgia Slave Code, 1755


Introduction
Part I, Slavery in Colonial Savannah
Part II, Slavery in Antebellum Savannah
Part III, Moving Forward
Recommended Reading List




Exhibit prepared by the City of Savannah, Research Library & Municipal Archives. © Copyright 2007 by the City of Savannah, Georgia. All rights reserved.