Indentured Servants and Slaves

Student Understandings:

Dunmore’s Proclamation offered freedom to slaves and indentured servants if they joined the British forces. This promise of freedom may have tempted Hampton’s enslaved workers.

The Revolutionary War created confusion and interrupted daily routines. Also during wartime, many households were without the traditional figures of authority. Such chaos provided numerous opportunities for slaves to escape. Even entire families and large groups were able to escape.

Hampton’s enslaved workers may have been tempted to run away due to the close proximity of the plantation to Pennsylvania and the city of Baltimore. By 1780 Pennsylvania passed a gradual emancipation act. Baltimore had a large population of free African Americans at the time.

Prior to the war, the Northampton Iron Works provided iron to England via the Ridgely shipping business. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, and the ending of trade between Britain and the colonies, the Ridgely shipping business slowed down. However, the need for slaves continued because the Northampton Furnace supplied ammunition and other iron items to the Continental Army.

Materials/Teacher Prep:

  • Field Trip Flip Books – prepared by students before the trip
  • A set of Station Posters, which are housed at the Hampton National Historic Site
  • Pencils for students
  • 4 blankets for students to sit on as they gather information from each poster


  1. Spend a few minutes restating the focus question: How did the Revolution impact the people living at Hampton? Review information they have already collected in their flipbooks at the other stations.
  2. Have students use the map on the back of their flipbook to identify the slave quarters and overseer's house. 
  3. Give students 8-10 minutes to explore the slave quarters and information presented inside.
  4. While students are exploring the slave quarters, spread out the four blankets with the posters on top.
  5. Bring the students back together and discuss what they discovered and address any questions they may have.
  6. Explain to students that they will rotate among the four blankets in order to gain more info for their flipbooks.
  7. Give students time to complete their rotations, guiding and focusing as necessary.
  8. Bring students back together to review what they added to their flipbooks to insure that they gathered what they needed to answer the focus question (see Student Understandings above).
  9. Encourage the students to add to their books as needed.

Possible Discussion Questions:

Indentured Servants and Slaves

  1. How were the lives of indentured servants and slaves similar?
  2. How did their lives differ? What were each group’s future job prospects?
  3. What did each group see as opportunities for their children?
  4. Which group had an easier time creating family units? Why?
  5. Did one group have more contact with the Ridgely family?
  6. How did their positions determine which side they would want to support during the Revolutionary War?
  7. How did ethnicity and race affect one’s ability to escape?
  8. How might they have felt about working for the Ridgleys?
  9. What were each group’s legal rights?
  10. What types of housing did each group have available?

Male and Female Workers

  1. What were advantages and disadvantages to being an unpaid female or male worker?
  2. What types of jobs were available to each group?
  3. Were there opportunities to obtain better jobs?
  4. If so, who might be able to take advantage of these opportunities?
  5. Who had a better chance of working outside of Hampton property? Why?

House and Field Slaves

  1. What were the advantages and disadvantages of being a house slave versus a field slave?
  2. What were the types of jobs assigned to slaves?
  3. How might one’s job affect his or her ability to interact with other slaves?
  4. How might one’s job affect his or her ability to create a family unit?
  5. How might different jobs have different work schedules?
  6. Who would have more interaction with Ridgely Family?
  7. How could increased contact with the Ridgley Family be both an advantage and disadvantage?
  • Acknowlegements and Credits
  • BCPS News
  • Planning a Field Trip to Hampton
This project was developed through a Teaching American History Grant partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the Center for History Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), with assistance from Hampton National Historic Site, National Park Service.
Contact Hampton National Historic Site at 410-823-1309 ex. 207 to arrange for class visits. |