Hidden Town Project
Although of great debate within the Moravian community, the practice of slavery slowly increased, even against the town’s regulations. At its height, there were approximately 16o enslaved men, women, and children in Salem. Some lived in their owner’s homes while others lived in about 40 slave dwellings in town. Following the Civil War, freedmen established the first school for black children in the county and established a neighborhood across Salem Creek, now called “Happy Hill.”
Through continued research, Old Salem, Inc. has worked to understand the story and people of Salem. These histories involve the complicated use of enslaved populations in building the town
and contributing to the mercantile prosperity of Salem. This narrative is the focus of a new initiative by Old Salem Museums & Gardens to reveal the history of a hidden town of African enslaved and freedman people living in Salem—where they lived, worked, and who they were as human beings. The first goal is to locate the sites of dwelling places of enslaved people throughout the historic district and to archaeologically investigate the sites to fully integrate them into the visitor experience. The second goal is to connect with descendants of the Salem enslaved population.
Please visit the St. Philips African American Heritage Center, on Church Street in Old Salem, to learn more about this history and the hidden town project. If you would like to get involved in the hidden town project, please contact us at Hiddentown@OldSalem.org.
If you have any questions or information that you’d like to share regarding this project, please contact us at