Shoe Soles Made by Slaves
Original Author: Unknown
Created: ca. 1861-1865
Medium: Wooden shoe soles
Publisher: The Museum of the Confederacy

Shoe Soles Made by Slaves

A pair of shoe soles made of pine or cedar are the handiwork of slaves who worked on an Albemarle County plantation outside of Charlottesville during the Civil War. The plantation belonged to Dr. Benjamin Randolph, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson. These soles were machine made, and the one on the right bears markings—Roman numeral IX or XI, just above the heel area—that indicate it was one of a pair. It is unknown whether these wooden soles were intended to be used by the slaves or their white master. Leather became an increasingly scarce commodity in the South during the war, and even some Confederate troops had to wear wooden-soled shoes. A July 19, 1863, letter concerning life at the Randolph plantation noted that an enslaved man named Bobby had caught a groundhog and its skin was being used to make shoes for the doctor.