Slave Contributions

Slave Skills

Pomp's Wall, Slave Contributions

Pomp’s Wall
Photo by Jay Griffin, 2002

Our image of a “slave” may be of someone who had only physical strength.

But according to William D, Piersen, historians have noted that there was a wide range of skilled and unskilled labor roles filled by northern slaves in addition to agricultural and domestic work.

A suggestive listing of such jobs would include:

anchor maker, baker, barber, blacksmith, btoonw, bookbinder, brick maker, butcher, carpenter, chairmaker, chimney sweep, cook, copper, ditch digger, distiller, doctor, dye maker, ferryman, fisherman, fox hunter, grocer, iron maker, joyner, mason, miner, nailor, porter, potash maker, pressman, rope maker, sailmaker, sawyer, seaman, sexton, shipwright, shoemaker, stam maker, soap boiler, spinner, tailor, tallow chandler, tanner, teamster, tinker, type setter, washerwoman, watchmaker, weaver, whitesmith, woodsman, and worsted comber.

–William D. Piersen, Black Yankees

Drawing, Slave Contributions

Map Showing Pomp’s Wall
Drawn by Lynette Tsiang, Radcliffe Seminars, April 10, 2002

Pomp’s Wall

A slave called Pomp built this wall–now known as the “slave wall”–on Grove Street in 1765 for slave owner Thomas Brooks. The wall formed part of a decorative entrance to Brooks’ house.

This site was part of the estate of the Brooks family, which was first occupied in 1679 and once included some 400 acres of land. The park behind the slave wall was donated to the City of Medford in 1924 by the Brooks family.

The first African-Americans arrived in Medford as slaves in February 1638. By 1765 Medford’s population included 49 slaves, many of whom were tied to the infamous Transatlantic Slave Trade. A portion of the original wall still stands as a testament to Pomp’s masonry abilities as well as the efforts of the other unsung individuals who made Medford’s prosperity possible.

Medford Historical Society | 10 Governors Avenue | Medford, Massachusetts | 02155