Advanced Search

Badge

The Charleston Museum’s Slave Badge Collection, the largest public collection of its kind, contains numerous examples of the copper badges worn by Charleston slaves until 1863. In the issuance of these badges, government officials were able to regulate the marketing of available slave labor within Charleston’s city limits. Slaves working outside the domain of their owners were required to wear these badges, which were obtained annually from Charleston’s treasury office for a fee. Any resulting income the slave earned from their ancillary services could be passed on to the master completely, divided between master and slave or, in some recorded instances, kept by the slave entirely. Also included in the collection is a copper “Free” (or “Freedman’s”) badge circa 1783. A city ordinance at that time required all free persons of color age fifteen or older to wear these copper badges in plain view.