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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Slaves' Midsummer Holiday

by William S. Powell, 2006; Revised November 2022.

Slaves Planting Rice. Image courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives, call #: N_77_7_4, Raleigh, NC.

The Slaves' Midsummer Holiday, when enslaved laborers were permitted a few days off by their enslavers, occurred after crops were laid by and before harvesting began. On August 26, 1862 Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, a member of a significant planter-enslaver family of Halifax County, wrote in her diary that it was "the Negroes Midsummer holiday, and as all of them but Fanny & Dolly have gone down to the Plantation dinner, the premises are deserted." She referred to "the annual three days holiday" as if it occurred regularly. In sections of the South with large populations of enslaved people, summer was a likely time for a slave insurrection and one that white enslavers often dreaded for that reason. For example, the Nat Turner Rebellion at Southampton County, Va., occurred on Aug. 21, 1831.


Beth G. Crabtree and James E. Patton, eds., Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, 1860-1866 (1979).

Image Credits:

Slaves Planting Rice. Image courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, call #: N_77_7_4, Raleigh, N.C.