Newspaper advertisement placed by Thomas Ewell offering a reward for the return of runaway slave Daphne.
Credit: District of Columbia Public Library, Washingtoniana Collection
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Though the people who enslaved African Americans on Lafayette Square were rich, powerful, and prominent, their slaves fought back against being held in bondage. One way they did so was by running away. On April 30, 1819 Thomas Ewell, a physician who built a house about where 734 and 736 Jackson Place are located today, placed an ad in the National Messenger looking for an enslaved woman named Daphne who had run away. The ad described Daphne as, "black, of middle height, rather corpulent – wife to a noted negro brickmaker called Bill Slaughter." Ewell's ad also stated that "for several days she has been sculking about Georgetown. . . I will pay five dollars and all necessary expenses incurred for her apprehension and delivery to me near the Presidents House."
Daphne was not the only person Ewell enslaved. In the 1820 census the Ewells' Lafayette Square household contained five enslaved African Americans, 2 males and 3 females all under the age of 14, and 11 white people.
Thomas Ewell not only owned slaves, but he also bought and sold enslaved people.
Though he viewed his slaves as property, Ewell did demonstrate some concern for what happened to the people he sold. On January 31, 1820, he placed this classified advertisement in the Daily National Intelligencer. It read, "The subscriber has for sale a negro woman, without any children, aged about 30 years; an excellent cook and washer. Also one of the most handy male servants in the country, used to waiting and driving carriage. Also, he will have, in a few days a woman with fine likely children of very promising qualities. Those servants will be sold for half the sum that was refused for them last year; and are only being sold to pay debts which cannot be postponed. A preference will be given to purchasers who will carry them westward, where the plenty of produce lessens the pains of slavery."
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