Fugitive Slave Notices in the Augusta Chronicle

They were far from home and fearful of all. Already one of their number had been captured. As Bachus, Duke, and Prince hid in the swamps and marshes of what is now Jasper County, South Carolina that hot September day in 1792, these bound men knew they did not want to return to a life of slavery. It is not known at this time what became of the three men. Perhaps they were recaptured and returned to their owner, Justus H Scheuber. Maybe they evaded capture and integrated themselves with what became the Gullah community of African slaves in the South Carolina Low Country. But the possibilities of discovering their fates is just one of the reasons why the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System’s Georgia Heritage Room has started compiling a collection of fugitive slave notices published during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the Augusta Chronicle.

The noble experiment of keeping Georgia free of slave labor ended with a royal decree in 1751 and by the time of the American Revolution, slavery was firmly entrenched as a way of life in the newly formed state. The Augusta Chronicle, long reputed to be one of the oldest running newspapers in the state, carried advertisements of runaway slaves from its earliest days. Descriptions of runways littered the pages of the newspaper, providing a wealth of information on individuals that might otherwise have never been documented. Names, ages, physical descriptions, family relationships, previous owners or places they lived are included to help identify the fugitives, as owners attempted to recover their “property.”

Under the institution of American slavery, enslaved human being, were defined in economic terms, seen as property and sometimes referred to as chattel, necessary to the smooth functioning of the plantation, a system that existed only because of their labor. Nowhere in the equation did humanity enter into the picture. A slave went on the run for myriad reasons, the most obvious being the horrific cruelty inflicted under the system of slavery, but no matter the reason, a fugitive slave was ultimately a financial hit to the slave owner so he or she (in the case of a female slave owner) would stop at nothing to get the slave back. For this reason, the fugitive slave notices that appeared in newspapers all over the county, including papers in the Northeast, were highly descriptive. Ironically, the attention to detail that slave owners hoped would result in the return of their property today has the potential to teach historians more about the lives of slaves, and for African-Americans searching for ancestors, another avenue of inquiry.

Each runaway notice is a small biography recording the life and humanity of someone who otherwise is lost to history.

Augusta Chronicle 25 April 1807

A recurring theme throughout most of the notices is one of brutality, indicated by the physical details slave owners used to describe the fugitive slave. In the advertisement above, Bob is described as having “a large scar over his right eyebrow, another on his left arm near his shoulder.” Most likely these scars are the result of the beatings that were part and parcel of daily life on the plantation. A few lines down we are told that he, “Had on an Iron Collar around his neck.” It is this incessant brutality that motivated many to flee, risking their lives to escape the violence.

15 May 1802 Augusta Chronicle

Women too ran away, and children. Many, if not all, of the notices detail the garments the slaves were wearing when they fled, in addition to items they may have carried off. Above we learn that Rachel wore, “a muslin short gown, flounced, white humhums coat, and a jockey beaver hat.” Humhum was a coarse plain cotton cloth, historically used in the making of towels, and imported from India. In the area of textile history, the notices give a fascinating look into the fabrics produced and used during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, providing another useful resource for historians studying this period.

We also read that Rachel was only seventeen, and seemingly alone when she ran, and is “forward with child.” What sort of desperation caused this young woman to run? Was she fleeing an abusive master who raped and assaulted her, leaving her with child, or was she attempting to reunite with the father of the child who was possibly sold off to another plantation. Both are very likely scenarios within the context of slavery. Heartbreakingly, families were routinely separated when slave owners sold off family members to distant plantations; or upon the death of a plantation owner, estates were liquidated and slaves could be portioned off to heirs or sold apart to pay off debts.

Augusta Chronicle 28 October 1809
Augusta Chronicle 2 April 1799

The plantation system was a business enterprise, and many slaves were skilled tradesmen and craftspeople, contributing to the overall success of the plantation. Those who ran off, taking with them a skill or craft integral to the daily machinations of the household were especially sought after. The slave, Harriot “was a house servant and can spin on the Cotton and Linnen Wheel, she is a good hand in a Loom, both for double and single Cloth.” Sometimes slaves with specialty trades, such as blacksmithing or in the case of Ralph, “a cooper and shoemaker,” were hired out to other plantations, giving them an open opportunity to run, which many took advantage of.

These notices are just a few examples of the nearly 750 the Georgia Heritage Room staff has currently amassed dating back to 1786. The scope of the project is expected to run through 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified and slavery was officially abolished throughout the United States.

It is estimated that over 200,000 fugitive slave notices appeared in newspapers all over the country from the mid-part of the eighteenth century well into the Civil War. Of these 200,000 notices, nothing else is written about the individual lives of these human beings. In an attempt to bring their stories to light many institutions including the Library of Congress and Cornell University have collected notices and made them accessible to the public. Here are a few more examples from our own collection:

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1970 Augusta Riot

Augusta Chronicle, 12 May 1970

Fifty years ago in mid-May of 1970, Augusta suffered one of the most violent chapters in its history. The brutal murder of a sixteen year old Black teenager named Charles Oatman inside a city jail, ignited a powder keg of long-standing racial tension which had been building in the city for generations, resulting in several days of violent and incendiary rioting. When the fires died down, and the city took count, an estimated $1 million in property damage had occurred, and sixty people were left wounded by police gunfire.

Six unarmed men were killed by police, all shot in the back. The names of the men were: Charlie Mack Murphy, William Wright, Jr., Sammy McCullough, John Stokes, John Bennett, and Mack Wilson.

In observance of this traumatic event in Augusta’s history, the 1970 Augusta Riot Committee has organized events beginning on Saturday, May 9th all over the city in an attempt to bring awareness and ultimately healing to a community that continues to live in the aftermath of this tragedy.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the events have been made virtual, and can be viewed from home. Please visit https://www.1970augustariot.com/events to learn more about the project and how to participate.

In 2012, the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library partnered with the Augusta Chinese American Benevolent Association of Augusta, Georgia on an oral history project to interview several elders in the Augusta Chinese-American community about their experiences immigrating and living in Augusta. Several of those interviewed owned businesses that were destroyed during the 1970 Augusta Riot, and offer a unique perspective on how their lives and the larger Augusta Chinese-American community were affected. If you’d like to listen these interviews, visit the Digital Library of Georgia website: https://dlg.usg.edu/collection/gaec_caoh

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Mother’s Day Memories

Don’t forget that Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10! Take a little time out of your day to preserve some memories of your loving mother or maybe your grandmother or a beloved aunt. Bond with them over a FaceTime call, and ask questions about their cherished memories. Celebrate all the mothers in your life by telling their stories. Here’s a great FamilySearch resource to help you out.


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Stories from the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic from the Library of Congress Ethnographic Collections

Emergency hospital during influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas (1918). Original image from National Museum of Health and Medicine. 

Continuing our celebration of Preservation Week 2020, today we are exploring how the Federal Writer’s Project of the Works Progress Administration documented stories during the Great Depression of everyday people who lived through the 1818 Spanish Flu pandemic. We have these stories today because they have been preserved by the Library of Congress.

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Celebrate Preservation Week with the Augusta Public Library

Now in its tenth year, Preservation Week April 26 – May 20, 2020 promotes the role of libraries, and other institutions in preserving personal and public collections, and treasures. This year’s theme is preserving oral histories. An oral history is a recorded interview of an individual with personal knowledge of past events; for example, an interview with a WWII veteran about his or her wartime experiences. Oral histories are an important way for historians to gather first hand accounts of events to preserve for future generations. Genealogists too can use oral history as a way to document family history and capture memories before they are lost. If you are interested in knowing more about your ancestors, don’t wait until it’s too late. Start interviewing your family members now. Anyone can conduct an oral interview and FamilySearch.org has a wonderful wiki article detailing how to do so.


All of us are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, so this might be a great starting point for conducting an oral interview with your relatives, which you can then preserve for your children, grandchildren, and future generations. Do you have a health care worker in your family who is on the front lines of the pandemic, or a relative in high school who is missing his or her senior prom? Everyone has a story to tell because we are all experiencing the pandemic in our own way. Nothing is too mundane. It’s important to record these stories for your own personal history, your family history, and for the history of our community.

If you’d like to share your story, think about including it in the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System’s COVID-19 Community Documentation Project. Learn more about the project here:

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National Library Week Digital Scavenger Hunt Part 2

We hope you enjoyed the first part of the Digital Scavenger Hunt. As promised, here is part 2. This time we will be focusing on the digital archives of the Augusta Chronicle.

If you’d like to share your results or have any questions about accessing the Augusta Chronicle digital archives please email the Georgia Room at genealogy@arcpls.org

Thanks for playing along!

Augusta Chronicle Digital Archives
What were the headline articles on the day of your birth?
Find James Brown’s obituary and tribute.
Find an article reporting the total number of deaths in Augusta from the Spanish flu at the end of 1918.
Find the obituary for a friend or loved one who lived in Augusta.
Find an article that reported the sinking of the Titanic.
Find an article about one of the libraries in the East Central Georgia Regional Library System.

Next Level Challenges –
Search your home address, and see if anything of interest has happened there over the years.
Find an advertisement for one of the various “medicines” that were used to treat non-serious ailments during the early part of the twentieth century.
Find a legal notice in the Richmond County Neighbors section of the newspaper.
In the 1920s the Augusta Chronicle featured a column titled, “Notes Among the Colored” that reported on the activities of the African American community in Augusta. Who wrote “Notes Among the Colored?”

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The Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System COVID-19 Community Documentation Project

We are living through a historic moment, and the Georgia Heritage Room of the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System (ARCPLS) wants to preserve this momentous event for our community’s historical record. To do so, we are asking the community to share their impressions and experiences of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected and changed their lives.

The type of information we are seeking is written documentation, personal stories, photographs (images), audio recordings and video clips, which will be collected into an archive chronicling the pandemic in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) so future generations can look back and better understand this period.

While everyone is urged to participate, as we are all in this together, we are particularly interested in the stories of first responders, medical professionals, hospitality workers, small business owners, military, and students. Because Augusta has a strong medical infrastructure, as well as a military presence with Fort Gordon and the NSA, and is home to the Augusta National, we welcome documentation that address these subjects.

By submitting content you agree to the following terms:

Contributors to the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library Pandemic Project will retain copyright of their material but grant permission and license to the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System to use the materials for educational and display purposes which may include both physical and online exhibition.

ARCPLS reserves the right to decline submissions that do not adhere to the purposes of this project, or follow the terms of agreement.

Please only submit content you have created. If you are under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must submit material on your behalf.

Do not include sensitive personal health information about yourself, or other people.

For those with Google accounts, click here.

If you do not have a Google account, you can fill out the form here.

If you have any additional questions about the project please email the Georgia Room at genealogy@arcpls.org

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National Library Week: “Find the Library at Your Place”

In honor of National Library Week, the Georgia Heritage Room has put together a little scavenger hunt for you! This week we will provide three different scavenger hunts highlighting a specific digital database your library card gives you access to.

Our first hunt will focus on the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG).

The Digital Library of Georgia is a gateway to Georgia’s history and culture found in digitized books, manuscripts, photographs, government documents, newspapers, maps, audio, video, and other resources.

Many of the materials are from the holdings of GALILEO member institutions, and the Digital Library of Georgia continues to grow through its partnerships with libraries, archives, museums, government agencies, and allied organizations across the state.

To search or browse the holdings of the Digital Library of Georgia, visit the DLG homepage at: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu. The DLG is accessed through GALILEO so if you don’t know the current password then please contact us at genealogy@arcpls.org.

On with the hunt!

First, tell us how many collections from Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System are available in the DLG?

Picturing Augusta: Historic Postcards from the Collection of the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System

Find the postcard depicting the Hampton Terrace Hotel. What year did the hotel burn (hint: the Augusta Chronicle reported it)

Next level – How many horses are depicted in the “Busy Morning on Broad Street” postcard

Next-Next Level – What is the name of the mill depicted in the background of the Allen Park postcard?

Augusta Chinese-American Oral History Project

Choose an oral interview to listen to.

Can you find an interview in which the person discusses the 1970 Augusta Riots?

African American Funeral Programs from the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System

Find the oldest funeral program in the collection.

Next Level- Find the funeral program for Sharon Jones. What is her date of death, and what is she famous for?

Next-Next Level – How many programs in the collection are of famous persons?

Oral Memoirs of Augusta’s Citizens – Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System

Choose an oral interview to listen to.

Next Level- Find the interview by Margaret Louise Laney about Lucy Craft Laney. How is Margaret Laney related to Lucy Laney?

Confederate States Patent No. 60 in the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library Collection

Who created the patent, what year was it created, and what was it for?

Augusta Motor Club Travel Guide in the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System Collection

What was the purpose of the guide?

Next level – How many rooms and baths does the Hotel Richmond boast?

Next level – Who donated the cotton for the air service experiment conducted on 4 June 1923?

Next Level – What is the name of the Candy Factory depicted in the book?

Next-Next Level – Where was this building located? What is significant about this address today?

What is the distance, speed limit and driving time listed in the book between Augusta and Columbia, South Carolina?

Stereographs in the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System Collection

What was the name of the bell tower depicted and what was its purpose?

Next level – how many people are shown in the flood damage of 1888 stereographs?

Next level – who created the stereograph of the Confederate Powder Works?

Next-Next level- What device is used to view stereographs?

If you’d like to share your results or have any questions please email the Georgia Room at genenalogy@arcpls.org

Thanks for playing along!

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Augusta’s First Library Started with Ten Volumes

The old Richmond Academy building was the location of Augusta Public Library from 1926 until 1960 when the library moved to its first permanent home on Greene Street.

In 1958 the American Library Association designated April as the month to honor libraries all across the United States, and since then, a week is set aside each April to celebrate all things library and the myriad contributions librarians have made to our nation’s history. This week (Sunday, April 19, 2020 – Saturday, April 25, 2020) marks the 62nd annual event, and gives us a chance commemorate one of Georgia’s most historic library systems.

By all accounts, Augusta, Georgia has one of the oldest, if not the oldest libraries in the state, but its eighteenth century origin is a bit convoluted. What we do know though, is that sometime between the two recorded dates of 1732 and 1750, Augusta, Georgia saw the formation of its first public library. In the early 1830s a number of wealthy benefactors from Britain donated books for a public library in the colony, many of which arrived on the ship, Charming Nancy. In Augusta, public sentiment was high for the formation of a library, and by 1750, Augusta had ten titles listed in the Catalogue of Augusta’s First Library, for public use.

Several groups and societies were involved in the early establishment of the public library, and among them were, The Augusta Library Society (1730), and The Thespian Society and Library Company of Augusta (1808), but finally in 1848, with the formation of the Young Men’s Library Association, Augusta’s first official public library was opened. The Young Men’s Library Association and Reading Room was opened on March 13, 1848. By 1855, the library housed 2,000 volumes, which grew to 12,000 by 1908. Until 1926, when the library was moved into the Old Richmond Academy Building, several locations were home to the growing collection, and sadly the library was temporarily closed in 1906 due to a lack of funding.

The library remained in the Richmond Academy Building until 1960 when all 103,542 volumes were moved to the newly constructed mid-century modern facility designed by architects, Eve and Stulb, on the corner of 9th and Greene Streets. Finally, the Augusta Public Library had a permanent home, until June 25, 2010 when it was moved to its present location at 823 Telfair Street.

A Catalogue of Augusta’s First Library
199 Years of Augusta’s Library by Berry Fleming

Common Prayer Books, 22 copies
Companion of the Sick, 12 copies
Duty of Man, 13 copies
Faith and Practice of a Church of England Man, 12 copies
Help and Guide to Christian Families, 20 copies
How to Walk with God, 50 copies
Spelling Books, 12 copies
The Great Importance of a Religious Life Considered, 6 copies
The Young Christian Instructed, 12 copies

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The 1918 Spanish Flu in Augusta, Georgia

Camp Hancock, Georgia 1918

How to Avoid Spanish Influenza

Avoid crowds. Practice scrupulous cleanliness. Always wash hands before eating. Get plenty of fresh air. Get plenty of nourishing food, and do not worry.

Printed in the Augusta Chronicle a little over 100 years ago, on September 30, 1918, this statement issued by president of the Augusta Board of Health, Dr. John Wright sounds eerily familiar to what we are being told to do today by the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918 p. 2

While none of us have lived through a pandemic such as COVID-19, and the world is a much different place than it was at the end of World War I, the Spanish flu does set a precedent for us and offers some guidance on how to proceed. Many studies were conducted following the 1918 Spanish influenza, comparing how major U.S. cities responded, and what measures were taken to limit the spread of the virus. For example, Philadelphia waited longer than most cities to implement social distancing measures, such as closing schools, churches, and banning other social gatherings, and even decided to host a parade that drew a crowd of over 200,000 people. Because of this, the city saw a total of 748 deaths, compared to St. Louis, a city that implemented strict social distancing measures early on in the pandemic, thereby “flattening the curve,” and at 358 deaths, had one of the lowest mortality rates of any major U.S. city.

National Geographic. How Some Cities Flattened the Curve During the 1918 Flu Pandemic, 27 March 2020
National Geographic. How Some Cities Flattened the Curve During the 1918 Flu Pandemic, 27 March 2020

The first known U.S. case of the Spanish influenza occurred at Camp Funston, Kansas in March of 1918, and from there quickly spread across the country. The first cases reported in Georgia occurred at Camp Gordon in Atlanta. A September 17, 1918 article in the Augusta Chronicle stated that the camp had been quarantined in light of the illness, and went on to compare other cases at army camps in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York where U.S. Army Surgeon General, William Gorgas said the disease was at epidemic levels. Because of the crowded conditions, and the travelling of military officials from camp to camp and across the Atlantic, the virus spread unabated through army and navy installations throughout the United States.

Augusta Chronicle. 17 September 1918, p. 2

For days afterwards, the Chronicle reported no influenza at Camp Hancock nor in Augusta proper, but it was only a matter of time before cases began popping up, and on September 30, 1918 in bold, block print on the front page, the newspaper reported that 13 out of 3000 troops, recently arrived to Camp Hancock from Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois were infected with the dreaded flu. Army officials downplayed the cases, insisting that none of the infections originated at the camp, and given the healthy conditions of Camp Hancock compared to other army camps around the United States, they believed “the disease will be controlled at this point without great difficulty.” However, the camp went on immediate lock down, quarantining those sick, and limiting the movement of soldiers within the camp, but stopping short by continuing to allow soldiers to visit downtown Augusta.

Camp Hancock was a massive World War I temporary military installation named for Civil War General Winfield Scott Hancock. Located on 1,777 acres at the top of “the Hill” where Wrightsboro and Highland Roads converge with Daniel Field, the rising tent city held 35,000 men, and 1,300 buildings, barracks, eating halls, hospitals, showers, latrines, storerooms, garages and office buildings.

Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918, p. 1
Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918, p.2
Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918, p. 2

The following day on October 1st, the number of reported cases at the camp jumped to 700 and the city’s Board of Health began enacting social distancing measures.  Streetcars were ordered to not overcrowd, limiting them to the carrying capacity of seated passengers only and soldiers from the camp were banned from riding any public transport though they could still accept rides in private vehicles.  The Board also ordered the newly arrived Ringling Brothers Circus to limit their crowds to 1200 people at a time.  Time and again, the disease was downplayed as “not that serious” and as long as people kept themselves clean and well nourished they would have no trouble avoiding the disease or quickly recovering if they did become ill. 

Augusta Chronicle. 1 October 1918, p. 1.

By October 4, 1918 three cases were reported in the city, but two days later on October 6th, the Chronicle reported a total of forty-seven cases scattered around Augusta, including 200 cases in Graniteville and fourteen in Blythe. Area health officials began issuing face masks to local physicians and encouraging them to have their nursing staff wear the same. Travel to Camp Hancock was also prohibited. By October 5th, the Camp had suffered a total of thirty-two deaths since the outbreak began on September 30th with ten of the deaths happening in a forty-eight hour period. Elliott Funeral Home handled the funerals, and the newspaper began listing the dead. Striking are the ages of those who succumbed to the virus. Unlike COVID-19, the Spanish influenza was especially fatal to the young and those with strong immune systems.

Augusta Chronicle 4 October 1918, p. 7
Augusta Chronicle. 5 October 1918, p.1
Augusta Chronicle 6 October 1918, p. 5.

On October 7, 1918, Augusta reported sixteen new cases in the city, and twenty-five deaths at Camp Hancock. The following day the newspaper reported a total of sixty-five cases emerging in a twenty-four hour period bringing the total number of to 112. Stating that the numbers in Augusta had not yet reached epidemic levels, but in an effort prevent that from happening, the Board of Health issued an immediate city-wide quarantine – closing schools, churches, movie houses, and banning public gatherings, although “open-air” gatherings for funerals, church services and fairs were still allowed.

Augusta Chronicle. 8 October 1918, p.7
Augusta Chronicle. 8 October 1918, p. 7

During the month of October 1918, the city of Augusta suffered eighty deaths as a result of the Spanish flu, which the Chronicle reported to be the highest number of deaths to occur during a single month period in the history of Richmond County. However, by the end of the month cases at both Camp Hancock, and in the city had begun to wane, which city health officials attributed to the strict quarantine measure.

Augusta Chronicle, 27 October 1918, p. 5.

The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, ending World War I, and with fewer cases emerging in Augusta, the flu seemed to be losing steam as well. As a result, the Board of Health decided to end the six week quarantine on November 15, 1918.

Augusta Chronicle. 11 November 1918, p. 1.
Augusta Chronicle. 15 November 1918, p. 5.

Almost immediately new cases of Spanish Flu were reported.  Schools still reopened and Augusta went back to its normal routine, but by December 17, 1918 it was obvious that the epidemic was not over.  On January 9, 1919 the Board of Health once again placed a flu quarantine on the city.  Despite the order, several churches reopened to the public “for prayer” only. Advertisements for every tonic and “cure-all” to fight the flu appeared in the paper daily, and had been since the epidemic began.  This time the quarantine ban stayed in place until February 1, 1919, although schools remained closed until February 10th.  By this time the number of new cases being reported to the Board of Health was dropping significantly and officials were more confident that the pandemic was finally passing.

Augusta Chronicle. 9 January 1919, p. 7
Augusta Chronicle. 17 December 1918, p. 3.

Ultimately, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic lasted until 1920, and according to Center for Disease Control estimates the disease infected at least 500 million people worldwide, with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. The worldwide death toll was a least 50 million, but some sources believe it could have been as high as 100 million, making it the deadliest pandemic in modern history.

“Though seriously affected by the Spanish flu epidemic, Georgia escaped the massive numbers of sick and dying counted in other states along the east coast.”1

It seems Augusta too escaped the worst of the pandemic. In late 1918, the Chronicle reported a total of 1,400 cases in the city and 118 deaths, and Camp Hancock had 7,800 cases with 500 deaths.

Let’s hope we fare as well this time around.

  1. Womack, Todd. “World War I in Georgia.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 05 November 2018. Web. 07 April 2020.

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