Who was the last surviving former slave in the U.S?

The title speaks for itself.

Given that slavery is still extant today in some parts of the world, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are quite a few who have managed to flee to America. The survivors of the Nazi and Japanese slave camps would be a good start.

I think the OP meant the last surviving PRE-CIVIL WAR AMERICAN BLACK SLAVE, not a Russian sex slave or Christian Sudanese war trophy.

Considering that the Civil War ended in 1865, and that children born from slave parents were also technically slaves, theoretically a very lucky former slave could have lived into the early 1970s.

AFAIK, the bulk of former slaved died in the 1930s and 1940s. The New Deal’s Federal Writers Project worked through the 1930s to document the memories of remaining former slaves, knowing that most with memories of their experience under slavery were nearing the end of their lives.

You don’t need to go that far. There are slaves here in the US today. Many of the ones discovered recently are unpaid drudge workers of foreign-born World Bank execs and other demi-diplomat types who lure someone from their home country (usually in Africa or Asia) with promises of employment, confiscate their passports, and enjoy the fruits of unpaid labor. Many cases like this come up here in the DC area.

I’m talking about legally sanctioned slavery that occurred within the United States. That means pre-Civil War.

The 13th Amendment was declared ratified by the Secretary of State on December 18, 1865.

It would not hard be hard to believe that someone born before then lived into the 1970s.

Aha. But who was it?

I do remember reading the story in the L.A. Times when the last remaining person in the U.S. born into slavery died. He was a baby during the Civil War, but still technically at one time someone’s “property”.

I remember that he lived in a nursing home, and at one time had his legs amputated. It was around '73 or '74.

That’s about all I can remember about it.

Couple past threads on the subject:


which really just point to the previous one:


According to this Google Answer, the last living slave died in 1979 at the age of 137 (!). Seems a little dubious, but there you go.

Mr. Smith’s age is/was in dispute, with some folks doubting that he was much more than 100 years old, as I recall. NASA brought him to the Apollo 17 launch, and when asked what he thought about the men going to the Moon he replied, “I see a rocket, but ain’t nobody goin’ to the Moon on it.”