BALL, CHARLES (1780–?), South Carolina, slave.
Charles Ball was raised in Maryland and sold south to Georgia and South Carolina, where he participated in the informal economy developed by slaves. In South Carolina, Ball bartered goods, primarily fish and other food staples, with white traders. While a slave in South Carolina Ball worked in a fishery after each cotton season and became successful in illegally trading portions of his catch with riverboat captains. Ball’s life reflects the hardships slaves endured and the initiative taken to improve their material well-being.
Ball spent his early adulthood in Maryland, where he farmed and worked in a Washington, D.C., shipyard. He was sold to a slave trader soon after marrying his first wife, Judah, and then sold again to a planter in South Carolina, where he successfully bartered goods. Sold again to an owner in Georgia, Ball escaped, perhaps in 1820, and made his way back to Maryland, where he married his second wife, Lucy, and farmed as a free black. Possibly in 1830 Ball was captured and returned to slavery, again in Georgia. He escaped and stowed away on a ship that took him to Philadelphia. Having lost track of his family who had been made slaves, Ball settled in Pennsylvania and recounted his life to a white lawyer named Isaac Fisher. Nothing is known about the end of his life, as he avoided attention for fear of being returned to slavery, where he was sold many times, removing him from his mother and, later, his two wives and children.
The economic activities of Ball are important for providing evidence of slave participation and activities in the South’s informal economy, as well as the black