Seeking meanings to information on 1850 & 1860 Slave Schedules

I am researching my enslaved ancestors. Why are mulatto slaves listed as "fugitives" on the 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules? What does "fugitive from the state" mean?

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  • Mulatto slaves are not normally listed in the 1850 & 1860 slave schedules as "fugitive from the state".  Without being able to see the schedule you are referencing, I would assume that the slave owner was listing all the slaves that he owned including one or more who had escaped or fled, who happened to be mulatto.

  • I am excited to discover another person who has seen this in an 1860 slave census.  Muhlenberg County, Kentucky is a research interest of mine and in its 1860 slave census, every single mulatto slave is marked as a fugitive of the state, and every single black slave is not.  That is a statistical impossibility.  More specifically, in that column of the forms, the mulattos are indicated with a number code which census enumerators were authorized to use to refer to private notes.  As I understand it, there was contention back then about the requirement to ask this question, and recording the information in this way served as a compromise.  But why were there markings for mulatto only?

    Prior to coming across this, I had long suspected there was an unknown Underground Railroad operation in that county, mainly from scattered  bits of very circumstantial evidence.  When I encountered this unusual pattern in the slave enumeration, I became convinced my hunch was right, though there was still no hard evidence.  At least, not until a just a few years ago when a local citizen stumbled across a family letter from an individual during that period, who I suspected was part of that UGRR operation.  The letter lacked much detail, as I understand, but it did confirm the existence of a previously unknown Underground Railroad operation in the county.

    --Norm Pritchett

    Lacey, WA

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  • I am excited to discover another person who has seen this in an 1860 slave census.  Muhlenberg County, Kentucky is a research interest of mine and in its 1860 slave census, every single mulatto slave is marked as a fugitive of the state, and every single black slave is not.  That is a statistical impossibility.  More specifically, in that column of the forms, the mulattos are indicated with a number code which census enumerators were authorized to use to refer to private notes.  As I understand it, there was contention back then about the requirement to ask this question, and recording the information in this way served as a compromise.  But why were there markings for mulatto only?

    Prior to coming across this, I had long suspected there was an unknown Underground Railroad operation in that county, mainly from scattered  bits of very circumstantial evidence.  When I encountered this unusual pattern in the slave enumeration, I became convinced my hunch was right, though there was still no hard evidence.  At least, not until a just a few years ago when a local citizen stumbled across a family letter from an individual during that period, who I suspected was part of that UGRR operation.  The letter lacked much detail, as I understand, but it did confirm the existence of a previously unknown Underground Railroad operation in the county.

    --Norm Pritchett

    Lacey, WA

Children