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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division

Caught Runaway

A notice from Jefferson County, Alabama, describes a runaway named Bill who is committed to the local jail. As part of the intricate system that developed to protect the property of slave owners, the sheriff had the right to jail any persons of color who could not prove themselves free or did not have a pass. Bill is described as having "a scar on his right check bone, several on his breast, one on his arm, occasioned by the bite of a dog -his back very badly scarred with the whip."  The detailed description of the man’s scars speaks of a history of disobedience. The mark of the whip shows a past full of digressions, and the dog bites indicate that he absconded before and was hunted, captured, and bitten by "negro dogs."

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