The Reverend Noah Davis’s Narrative reveals remarkably little about the physical and psychological particulars of his experiences as a slave. He declines to offer any kind of criticism or critique whatsoever. The Narrative does, however, provide a rare and insightful view of the black Baptist Church tradition in Baltimore, with which he became associated.
Davis describes a kind owner and what he saw as a kind of advantaged childhood: “Mr. Patten [his family’s owner] was always considered one of the best of masters, allowing his servants many privileges; but my father enjoyed more than many others.” On the basis of his parents’ involvement with the Baptist Church, Davis early developed a pious inclination: “Both he [Davis’s father] and my mother were pious members of a Baptist church, and from their godly example, I formed a determination, before I had reached my twelfth year, that if I was spared to become a man, I would try to be as good as my parents.” 1
Davis was hired out as an assistant to a carpenter and, by the age of twenty-seven, had relocated to Fredericksburg, Maryland; become affiliated with the Baptist Church of Fredericksburg; and was called to fill the office of deacon. Davis also began a family, which eventually grew to nine children, seven of whom where born into slavery. When, in 1845, Davis’s owner granted his request to purchase his freedom for $500 and gave him a pass to allow him safely to travel, Davis approached Baptist congregations in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and throughout the northeast in a successful effort to raise the funds. White Baptist supporters in Baltimore offered Davis the opportunity