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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

Wilson Caldwell (1841-1898), college servant

African American slavery was a fundamental institution of early North Carolina. In 1790, about one quarter of its population was enslaved. That same year, there were 2,060 slaves and 10,055 whites in Orange County, the university's future home. By 1860, slavery had increased its power, and slaves comprised about one-third of Orange County’s population. Most slaves worked on farms in eastern North Carolina, growing crops like cotton, tobacco and rice. Other slaves did household work or practiced skilled crafts like carpentry. Slaves were also a crucial part of the university's workforce.