Glimpses of Chesapeake’s Past

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From Moses Grandy's autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, Late a Slave in the United States of America. Picture obtained from docsouth.unc.edu.

From Moses Grandy’s autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy,
Late a Slave in the United States of America. Picture obtained from
docsouth.unc.edu.

Discovering Moses Grandy

By DENISSE LANE

If you travel down Virginia State Route 165 you will eventually run into the Moses Grandy Trail, but do you know the man behind the road’s name? It may surprise you to learn that Moses Grandy was actually a slave who bought his own freedom. If he were alive today, he might even have become an affluent businessman.

For approximately 44 years Grandy was held in captivity since his birth in Camden County, North Carolina. He was the youngest of four boys and four girls, though his mother had had more children that had died or been sold before he could know anything of them. These eight siblings would also be sold by his first master, Billy Grandy, to other slave holders. Later in life, his first wife was sold away to a slave-dealer. He never saw her again.

Moses Grandy believed in hard work. Like many slaves, he labored in building the Dismal Swamp Canal, a process that was done completely by hand at the time. Grandy also ran boats, cut timber, and brought goods into port in Portsmouth and Norfolk. As he worked, Grandy was able to set aside his profits with the hopes that he would one day buy his freedom. However, liberty did not come easily for him.

 

The first two times that Grandy had raised enough money to purchase himself, he was betrayed by his masters. One master tore up all receipts proving Grandy had made any payments towards his own behalf. It wasn’t until he worked under a man named Enoch Sawyer that his freedom was honored. In total, Grandy spent $1850 to free himself. After the purchase of his second wife and their children, the price of freedom amounted to $3,060, a sum totaling around $50,000 in today’s market.

Grandy went on to dictate his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, Late a Slave in the United States of America, to George Thompson, a friend and abolitionist in London. Even today, you may find that Grandy’s words still manage to strike a chord; “I pray for the time to come when freedom shall be established all over the world. Then will men love as brethren; they will delight to do good to one another; and they will thankfully worship the Father of all.”

mosesGrandy

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One Response to Glimpses of Chesapeake’s Past

  1. Madge Smith Reply

    August 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Denisse you are blessed with a very special talent. I loved your articles keep up the good work

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