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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

James Strudwick Smith (1787-1852)

James Strudwick Smith (1787-1852)

Sexual abuse was a brutal, but common, feature of slavery. One especially dramatic instance in Orange County involved Harriet, property of university trustee James Strudwick Smith and personal servant to his daughter, Mary Ruffin Smith. Harriet married a free man of color, Reuben Day, but her mistress's brother Sidney forced the couple apart. Later, Harriet gave birth to Sidney's daughter Cornelia, and then was abused by Sidney's brother Francis. The two brothers, both of whom attended the university, fought bitterly for possession of Harriet until Francis emerged victorious. He became the father of Harriet's other three children, Emma, Annette, and Laura.