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This article discusses the career of African American furniture maker Thomas Day, a free black craftsman who lived in northern North Carolina, near his birthplace in Virginia. Legend and myth have grown around Day's life and accomplishments, but his access to and business with white customers and his ability to prosper in that world can be attributed mainly to his recognized talent as a craftsman, even if such recognition of a black man was extraordinary in pre-Civil War North Carolina.
In 1839, Thomas Day, the master cabinetmaker from Milton in Caswell County, acquired ten-year-old Archibald Clark as an apprentice. State law required that all orphans and children of unmarried parents be bound to a master or mistress through indenture to the age of twenty-one. Marshall describes what Archibald's life would have been like during his indenture period.