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Adolphus, Contract to Be Hired Out, 1865


Enslaved Virginians were often hired out by their owners during the course of their lives. Industries such as the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond and the many iron and woolen mills throughout the state employed skilled and unskilled slaves to augment their free workforce. Farmers and individuals would do the same.  Invariably, the employment contract would be for one year and stipulate humane treatment, food, and clothing. We do not know who Susan Monroe and James Colson were, or how they intended to employ Adolphus, but the agreement, signed January 2, 1865, became null and void just a few months later when the Confederacy ceased to exist in April. At that point Adolphus became a free man and was no longer under any obligation to Miss Walthall, his previous owner. It is possible, however,  that Adolphus renegotiated his contract with Monroe and Colson and continued his employment with them.

Citation: Monroe & Colson to Miss S.J. Walthall bond $800 hire of Adolphus 1865, Leaf to “Contract” from Petersburg, Va., 1865, Special Collections, Broadside Collection, Library of Virginia.


VS.1, VS.7, VS.8, USI.1, USI.8, USI.9

Suggested Questions

Analyze: Take a close look at this contract. Who is Adolphus? Who is hiring him out? What is he obligated to do?

Up for Debate: What you think happened to Adolphus after he was freed? Do you think he renegotiated his contract with Monroe and Colson? Do you think he continued to work with them? Why or why not? What else could he have done instead?


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