Name: Noah
Occupation: Freed enslaved American; migrant worker

Hometown: unknown
Birth: unknown
Death: July 5, 1918
Spouse: Sarah

Date of Picture: 1915

Bio: Little is known about the former slave Noah. It’s not clear if Noah was always his name, as he admitted how much he enjoyed the biblical story about the famous fisherman and implied that he took this name himself. This image was captured late in his life and is likely the only picture ever taken of him. It was part of a study conducted by the South Carolina Historical Society that was collecting information chronicling the 50th anniversary of the ending of the Civil War. Noah shared some highlights of his life during that study.

Noah believed he was born in Sussex County, Virginia. He had little memory of his parents, although he believed his mother may have come from Barbados or that her family was from Barbados. He remembered working on tobacco farms in Virginia prior to and during the Civil War. He was proud of being an excellent fisherman and noted he could “pull a buck or two” should it be necessary to keep food on the table. Although never learning to write, he could read some key words and phrases.

Noah’s residence was tracked to a tobacco farm outside of Charles City, Virginia, when the war broke out. He stated with much pride of the great trust placed in him by “Mizz Abigail” (Abigail Carden of Charles City) in taking care of the farm after her husband Jeff died in 1864. Noah spoke with respect for Abigail and her family and noted that because of that respect he let his daughter Anne go with Abigail to live in Richmond and help take care of the family’s youngest daughter, Susannah. He was very proud that he was left in charge of the farm, but there was no way he and his fellow enslaved Americans could maintain it after troops from both sides of the conflict repeatedly ravaged the gardens and surrounding area. The farm was close to the final battles of the war. It was with great sadness that he reported being forced to abandon the farm, knowing that he was leaving his daughter Anne behind, too.

After the war, like many freed slaves, Noah traveled the country looking for any work he could find. He felt best working with the land and so gravitated to working on farms, often moving from farm to farm and state to state as crops ripened. Unlike many who made pilgrimages north, Noah spent the majority of his life in Southern stated making a life with few possessions but great fondness for those he lived and worked with.

Enslaved Man

Enslaved Man

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Please note: This material is part of a performance task developed with input from teachers Kelli Wilson and Makesha Yellock from Martinsville Middle School, instructional coaches, and other dedicated educators in the Martinsville City Public Schools. You are free to use this task, but do please give credit to John Ross and Martinsville City Public Schools if you do use it.