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“E” is for Ellison, William (ca. 1790-1861)

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“E” is for Ellison, William (ca. 1790-1861). Free Black entrepreneur. Ellison was the child of an enslaved woman and one of the Ellison men who owned her. In 1802 he began an apprenticeship with a local cotton-gin maker. As he gained experience, Ellison visited outlying plantations and did repair work. During his free time, he worked for wages and by 1816 had acquired funds to purchase his freedom. He settled in Stateburg in Sumter District. In 1817 he purchased and freed his enslaved wife and their child. Ellison established a shop and began manufacturing his own “Ellison Gin” to customers as far west as Mississippi. As he prospered, he purchased land and enslaved laborers for his factory and his plantation. In 1860, William Ellison considered leaving South Carolina because of the increased persecution of free Blacks.

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