Image of Jim Powell. Courtesy of John Alosi and
the Cumberland County Historical Society.
'Don't you mind' our old friend 'Banty Jim,' old Banty, 'thick and short.'" -Poem published in The Sentinel, June 5, 1886.
Jim Powell, also known as "Pompey Jim," "Banty Jim," and James Powell, was a janitor at Dickinson College.
Born around 1788 in Maryland, Jim Powell was most likely born a slave and was freed or escaped to Pennsylvania. His wife Sarah was also born in Maryland. According to John Alosi's thesis entitled "Shadow of Freedom," Powell was most likely never a slave in Pennsylvania because of the 1780 Act of Abolition. This act guaranteed that slaves could not be brought to Pennsylvania to be enslaved. His birth in Maryland would have restricted a potential master's ability to enslave him.
Jim and Sarah's son John reveals the latest they could have escaped or moved to Pennsylvania. Because their son was born in Pennsylvania, they could not have moved to Pennsylvania any later than his birth. This means that if his birth was around 1827, the couple must have moved there no later than that year.
Most likely, he was forced to find a job right away because he could not be enslaved. He was listed as a bootblack, or a person who polishes boots, in the 1850 census. However, because he was already 62 years old, that was most likely was his occupation following his retirement from Dickinson College. At some point between 1827 and 1850, he was employed by the college to fulfill the role of the janitor. He must have been a janitor sometime between 1827 and 1850. This means that he was likely one of the earliest paid African American janitors of the college. 
After his death, he was regarded as a well-known "colored celebrity" in Carlisle and was widely appreciated for making funny faces. Decades after his passing, Carlisle residents were writing to the paper to request stories of "celebrities" including him. Another source claimed he "was a constant attendant at church, being a devout member of the old Methodist church, on the southeast corner of Main and Pitt streets."
 John Alosi, "Shadow of Freedom: Slavery in Post-Revolutionary Cumberland County, 1780-1810," p. 1.