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Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2022

History Corner(s)

An Anniversary of Resistance:  Sam Hanson’s Bid for Freedom

By Ken Hawkins

Two hundred years ago this summer, a young Black man named Sam Hanson — who had grown up in the area we know today as Four Corners — took actions that risked his life and those around him:  he ran away from his enslaver, Thomas Gittings.  It was thought that Sam sought his freedom by making for Pennsylvania with a change of clothes, his fur cap, and a forged pass.


Inventory of enslaved people, including Sam, aged 3, listed in the estate of Benjamin Gittings, died 1805.  (Maryland State Archives)

Sam had worked since he was a child in 1805 at the Gittings family’s forced-labor plantation in Montgomery County just north of the District of Columbia (see the Northwood News, October 2016).  He was listed at age three in the estate inventory from that year of Benjamin Gittings, the father of Thomas.

Sam was about twenty years of age when he turned his back on the Gittings and chose liberty.


Advertisement to recapture Sam Hanson, Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, District of Columbia, July 18, 1822.

No further trace of Sam has emerged in the record.  But his name did not appear on an 1848 list of others that Thomas Gittings enslaved and that his heirs continued to imprison.  So perhaps he did successfully “shape his course for Pennsylvania.”

Today the boundaries of the area’s subdivisions, Northwood Park and Woodmoor, echo those of the slave plantation run by the Gittings that Sam decided in 1822 to leave behind forever.

[Hawkins, who earned the Ph.D. in history, lives in Northwood Park.]   ■


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