Friday Jones

Most of what we know about Friday Jones (Friday High) comes from his 1883 autobiography Days of Bondage: Autobiography of Friday Jones, Being a Brief Narrative of his Trials and Tribulations in Slavery.

Friday was born enslaved in Wake County. Of his early years, he wrote, “My first remembrance of my life begins when I was from 8 to 10 years of age. I was born in North Carolina in 1810, the property of Olser Hye, within 15 miles of the capital of the State — Raleigh. My mother’s name was Cherry and my father’s Barney. I was taken from them when I was small and hired out to Sim Alfred, who lived about two miles from where I was born. My mother was traded for a tract of land and sent to Alabama. My father died about this time.”

Friday was enslaved by Colonel Tignal Jones of Wake County after Colonel Jones married Olser Hye’s daughter Emily. Friday was one of the enslaved men who helped construct the Capitol, and about this time in his life he wrote, “I was out of [Jones’s] employ for four years, working for the Government of North Carolina, after which I fell back in his hands, working on his farm and on the Raleigh and Gaston R.R. He set out to part my wife and I, as he had threatened to do so.” Friday repeatedly ran away from Colonel Jones, who tormented him and threatened to sell Friday’s wife and children. Friday wrote, “I could not get along with him; he was always abusing me and threathening (sic) to sell me; he aggrivated (sic) me and tried my very soul. I was raised poor and hard as any slave.” Friday also chose to “stay out,” or refuse to work, when he was abused. (For more on the topic of resistance to slavery)

Friday and his family were eventually emancipated. After the Civil War, Friday worked at the Capitol as a night watchman. He was a founding member and trustee of the First Colored Baptist Church in Raleigh. He left Raleigh in his early seventies, moving to Washington, D.C. to work at the US Capitol and publish his autobiography. After his death in August 1887, the Raleigh News and Observer ran his obituary. The article noted that Jones “had been quite prominent among his race as a politician,” and “was at one time watchman at the capitol.”

Title page of Friday Jones' autobiography
Title page of Friday Jones' autobiography


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