Boston King, profiled in the Yorktown Victory Center’s Witnesses to Revolution Gallery, was apprenticed to a carpenter in South Carolina and escaped enslavement in 1780, joining the British side, where he worked for a time as a boat pilot.

Boston King, profiled in the Yorktown Victory Center’s Witnesses to Revolution Gallery, was apprenticed to a carpenter in South Carolina and escaped enslavement in 1780, joining the British side, where he worked for a time as a boat pilot.

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What Kinds of Jobs Did Enslaved African Americans Do?

In the 18th century, most enslaved African Americans worked as agricultural laborers, but not all did.  Below is a list of 78 different occupations mentioned in The Virginia Gazette, a late-colonial-era newspaper.  How many of these jobs were sometimes performed by slaves in Virginia?

 (Answer:  All of them.)

Bakers; Barbers; Basket Makers; Blacksmiths; Brewers; Bricklayers; Brick Makers; Butchers; Cabinet Makers; Canoe Men; Carpenters; Carters; Cartwrights; Caulkers; Coachmen; Colliers; Cooks; Coopers; Curriers; Dairy Maids; Dancers; Ditchers; Drivers; Doctors; Dressmakers; Farmers; Ferrymen; Fiddle Makers; Fiddlers; Finers; Firemen; Fish Dealers; Fishermen; Foremen; Forge Men; Founders; Furnace Men; Furnace Keepers; Gardeners; Glaziers; Gunsmiths; Hairdressers; Hammermen; Harness Makers; Hostlers; House Joiners; Knitters; Millers; Mill Wrights; Miners; Musicians; Nurses; Overseers; Pilots; Plasterers; Preachers; Rope Makers; Saddlers; Sailmakers; Sailors; Sawyers; Seamstresses; Ship Carpenters; Ship Builders; Shoe Makers; Smiths; Skippers; Spinners; Stone Masons; Tailors; Tanners; Turners; Wagon Makers; Wagoners; Waiters; Watermen; Weavers; and Wheelwrights.

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