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Once he obtained his freedom, he worked to make the money to free his wife and children. He was able to secure the release of his wife and year-old son. He dictated a narrative of his life, Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, Late a Slave in the United States of America , with the intention of buying the freedom of additional family members. His slave narrative, and others, read in the United States and overseas, helped to bring awareness of slavery and fuel the abolitionist movement.

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His family was separated when his siblings and father were sold. His mother hid some of her children at times to prevent them from being sold. Among the people that Grandy witnessed being beaten were his mother, a pregnant women, and a year-old boy, who was beaten until he died.

He was subject to beatings, and not having enough to eat, he was also half-starved. Grandy was hired out by James Grandy when he was The second man he worked for, Jeremy Coate, beat him so severely for not hilling corn as he wanted it that the sapling broke off in his side. Enoch Sawyer, an owner of large tracts of land in Pasquotank and Camden Counties , fed him so little that Grandy ground cornhusks into flour for food. By 15 he was managing ferry crossings of a swampy river in Camden, North Carolina at Sawyer's Ferry [6] later Lamb's Ferry ; [7] He was "in charge of poling and sculling and cabling the ferry".

He lived on Sawyer's plantation, placed his bare feet in heated mud from the hog's nighttime slumber for warmth, and visited his mother who lived in a cabin in a remote area, non- arable land outside of Camden after she became "too infirm to work". Grandy worked jobs transporting goods to Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia and running boats and cutting timber for the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. Several bosses after Sawyer, Grandy worked for a man named Richard Furley who allowed Grandy to take on extra work, [8] working nights and Sundays, [5] taking a share of the receipts.

James Grandy called in all the slaves he had rented out to others and allowed Grandy to continue doing extra work, but took twice as much as Furley's percentage of the receipts. He was young yet and had seen a rough go of things already, but he was old enough to know that his life should not be all brutish work and near starvation and standing on the ceremony and bad habits of white men.


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Over the years, Grandy studied navigation and other jobs that were assigned to him so that he was proficient and valuable. A strong, tall man, he worked hard, long hours. He was thoughtful about his actions to avoid getting into situations that would be worse than he already had; He would not be a runaway or a rebel. Grandy was keenly aware that his success would be more likely to be secured by the alliance with an honorable man. In the winter of , James Grandy's brother-in-law and a merchant, Charles Grice, approached him to hire year-old Moses out as a freightboat captain. He became commander, ultimately Captain Moses Grandy, of up to four boats that navigated and transported goods on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal and the difficult, curvy Pasquotank River , the only navigable water-ways between Elizabeth City and Norfolk, Virginia once the British closed off Chesapeake Bay in the War of Underclothed and fed, once she started working for Grice and Norfolk merchant Moses Myers, he had better food, shoes, and a coat.

His pay was now based on the value of the successfully transported merchandise. Grandy married a woman, who he said he loved "as I loved my life".


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She lived on a plantation and one day as he was poling a boat through the river he heard a woman call his name. He saw his wife in a slave coffle as she was being walked to a boat that would take her south and away from him. She called out "I am gone. They were never to see each other again. He earned enough money to buy his freedom, but his money was stolen by two of his owners.

After the final payment was made, and within eyesight of the courthouse, James Grandy asked for the receipts in exchange for his signature on the papers to free him. Moses gave him the receipts. Grandy tore up the receipts and rather than walk towards the courthouse, he went to the tavern to drink. Trewitt, and also kept Moses Grandy's money.


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That having failed, other whites reacted by having him removed from the boarding house he lived in. Moses, owned now by Trewitt and having lost his savings, was hired out again. When he had saved up what Trewitt demanded to buy his freedom, Trewitt took the money, but did not free him. Grandy went into a deep depression. His owner threatened to sell him, which would mean he would be separated from his second wife.

At the thought of being separated again from a loved one, he said in desperation, "I would cut my throat from ear to ear rather than go with him. Ironically, one of the most brutal slave overseers, a Mr. Brooks, was outraged by the second time in which Grandy's money was taken without securing his freedom. He notified Grandy that a man, Edward Minner, might be able to help secure his freedom. By the end of three years from the time he [Minner] laid down the money, I entirely repaid my very kind and excellent friend. During this time he made no claim whatsoever on my services; I was altogether on the footing of a free man, as far as a colored man can there be free.

I felt to myself so light, that I could almost think I could fly; in my sleep I was always dreaming of flying over woods and rivers. My gait was so altered by my gladness, that people often stopped me, saying, 'Grandy, what is the matter? Having papers that proved he was free, he moved up to Providence, Rhode Island at Minner's suggestion. Minner died one year later and Grandy returned to the safer north to earn the money for their freedom.

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While there, he earned the affection of people who found "his benevolence, affection, kindness of heart, and elasticity of spirit are truly remarkable," according to white abolitionist George Thompson. To earn the money for their freedom, he recounted his life story, including the emotional and physical torment, which was published and sold. To fellow African Americans he stated his beliefs that the whites who had harmed his family and other slaves would face judgment of God in the afterlife. The family members that Grandy wanted to buy their freedom included his wife, four of his six children — one of his daughters earned the money to free herself and one of her sisters — and four grandchildren.

In Grandy was listed in the Boston Directory and his profession was laborer. Then, he had a position on the James Murray ship as a seaman. McKinney sheds light on the brilliant career of a man who maintained a strong commitment to reform, liberty, and equality through a formative period in the nation's history. McKinney deftly demonstrates that, despite the social and economic challenges of the time, Senator Blair defended moral reform in a hostile climate and affirmed that the federal government had an important and active role to play in improving American society.

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New arrivals. Though Moses Grandy ca. With his lyrical prose and inimitable voice, Bland Simpson offers readers a grand tale of the striving human spirit and the great divide that nearly sundered the nation. Grandy, born a slave, captained freight boats on the Dismal Swamp Canal and bought his freedom three times before he finally gained it. He became involved in Boston abolitionism and ultimately appeared before the General Anti-Slavery Convention in London in As a child, Maffitt was sent from his North Carolina home to a northern boarding school, and at thirteen he was appointed midshipman in the U.

Navy, where he had a distinguished career.

Two Captains from Carolina

After North Carolina seceded from the Union, he enlisted in the Confederate navy and became a legendary blockade runner and raider. Both Grandy and Maffitt made names for themselves as they navigated very different routes through the turbulent waters of antebellum America. Reviews Review Policy. Published on. Flowing text, Original pages. Best For.

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