The World of Thomas Jeremiah: Charles Town on the Eve of the American Revolution

ISBN : 9780199922871

William R. Ryan
282 Pages
157 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jul 2012
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This book profiles the port of Charles Town, South Carolina, during the two-year period leading up to the Declaration of Independence. It focuses on the dramatic hanging and burning of Thomas Jeremiah, a free black harbor pilot and firefighter accused by the patriot party of plotting a slave insurrection during the tumultous spring and summer of 1775. To examine the world of this wealthy, slave-holding African American through his trial and execution, William R. Ryan uses a wide array of letters, naval records, personal and official correspondence, memoirs, and newspapers. He shows that the black majority of the South Carolina Low Country managed to assist the British in their invasion efforts, despite patriot attempts to frighten Afro-Carolinians into passivity and submission. Although Whigs attempted, through brutality and violence, to keep their slaves from participating in the conflict, Afro-Carolinians became actively involved in the struggle between colonists and the Crown as spies, messengers, navigators and marauders. The book demonstrates that an understanding of what was going on in this vital seaport during the mid-1770s has broader implications for the study of the Atlantic world, African American history, naval history, urban race relations, labor history, and the turbulent politics of America's move toward independence.


Introduction: A Different Port of Entry
Ch 1: White Divisions (June 1774-March 1775)
Ch 2: A Great War Coming (April 1775-June 1775)
Ch 3: Under the Color of Law (July 1775-August 1775)
Ch 4: Charles Town Harbor (September 1775-October 1775)
Ch 5: Lowcountry/Backcountry: The Volatile Geopolitics of Revolutionary South Carolina (November 1775-December 1775)
Ch 6: The Greatest Hope and the Deepest Fear (December 1775-January 1776)
Ch 7: The Masters were Still in Charge (January 1776-August 1776)
Conclusion: Simple Spectators?
Appendix I: Documents Relating to the Trials and Execution of Thomas Jeremiah
Appendix II: Documents Relating to the Slave Shadwell and the Free Black Scipio Handley

About the author: 

William R. Ryan has taught colonial American history at Duke University and North Carolina State University.

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