Hi everyone,

This is a drawing I did for a theatrical performance called 
Project Runaway, based on the documented stories of runaway slaves and indentured servants in the early 1800's.  The depiction we have here is of Captain Edward Dix of the British Royal Navy, captain of the HMS Menelaus.

A week before Christmas in 1814 the ship was docked in Baltimore harbor.  That night the young William "Rolla" Ross, a 14 yr old slave of the Neths of Annapolis, fled for freedom - leaving behind his mother & family and boarding the England-bound Menelaus.

Not going unnoticed master Neth sought out the return of his "property".  Upon his arrival Captain Edward Dix sternly and unquestionably refused to give up Rolla to Neth, standing his ground despite the Marylander's heated demands.

Later that evening the Menelaus set sail for England and, due to Rolla's bravery and the Captain's strong character, William "Rolla" Ross escaped forever the grasp of slavery.

- D



Rebecca Tilley
04/03/2012 7:30am

Rolla Ross was my grt,grt,grt,grt grandfather, was great to see this on here.


05/24/2012 5:01pm


It is so great to see Draper's art bringing these stories to light, and also exciting to see a post from a descendant of William Ross! As a research archivist with the Maryland State Archives, I have been in contact with another descendant in Southhampton, UK, who has helped fill in many of the gaps of Ross's life following his escape. For more information on William "Rolla" Ross, you can visit the website of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland, under the Maryland State Archives: http://www.mdslavery.net/html/casestudies/war_aacs.html. Our case study on William Ross draws from local records and historic newspapers as well as the detailed claim submitted by Neth to the Secretary of State for reimbursement for the escaped slave.

We'd love to hear from you, and if you have any documentation / research that could supplement our case study of William Ross, we would love to look into it!

Best regards,

Rachel Frazier
Study of the Legacy of Slavery
Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401

Janice Hayes-Williams
12/01/2012 10:46pm


Thank you for your work.

I was hired by Historic Annapolis Foundation to assist in flushing out the stories for "Project Runaway". The idea for "Project Runaway" was introduced to HAF by the wonderful actress, and "Godmother" of first person interpretation of the African American experience in Annapolis - Scotti Preston!

Your work brought a new (historic) experience in first person interpretation. Scotti and I have worked together for 12 years, she the interpreter and myself the historian, a descendant of slaves owned by Maryland Provencial Governor, Horatio Sharp, from "Four Women of Annapolis", "Dreams of my Soul" (stories of the slaves of Charles Carrol of Carrolton - Signer of the Declaration of Independence, and other performances, performed without the visuals - your work in particular- used for "Project Runaway" and are considered powerful tools to uplift African American history in Annapolis, Maryland's State Capital.

With that said, I commend you for your work as an artist and your ability to provide stimulating visuals for "Project Runaway". It was spectacular!

As the stories were researched and the script was developed, my favorite runaway was "Rolla"! A wonderful story now completed with the communications from Rolla's family in England.

Please contact me when you can. My current project is for the city of Annapolis to prepare for the upcoming Sesquicentennial -150th Anniversary of Emancipation in the "great' State of Maryland!

As Chairwoman for this new Commission for the City of Annapolis, I would like to work with you to make the story telling during this celebration, a unique experience for our historic celebration.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Janice Hayes-Williams, Historian & Columnist - Capital Newspaper, formerly the Maryland Gazette
Annapolis, Maryland
ourlocallegacy@aol.com (personal)
jhayes-williams@aacounty.org (work)

Rebecca Tilley
03/20/2013 3:48pm

Thank you this is very exciting, My relative Christine Hampton is the local (Southampton) 'expert' on Rolla Ross. I have received so much great information regarding his life from Her.


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