Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11382009

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eighty-six "mechanics and undertakers in the Town of Columbia" seek legislation prohibiting slave owners and overseers from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. Self-hired slaves not only became contractors, or "undertakers" of jobs themselves, the petitioners complain, but they take "apprentices in the various mechanical arts exercised on and practiced in the said Towns whereby your Petitioners are often deprived of Jobs & employment in their respective trades." The petitioners seek a law with "certain and heavy penalties" to constrain owners or managers from permitting slaves to hire their own time. They also seek to penalize those who hire such slaves and to halt the practice of slaves hiring apprentices.

PAR Number 11382010

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eighty-six "mechanics and undertakers in the Town of Columbia" seek legislation prohibiting slave owners and overseers from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. Self-hired slaves not only became contractors, or "undertakers" of jobs themselves, the petitioners complain, but they take "apprentices in the various mechanical arts exercised on and practiced in the said Towns whereby your Petitioners are often deprived of Jobs & employment in their respective trades." The petitioners seek a law with "certain and heavy penalties" to constrain owners or managers from permitting slaves to hire their own time. They also seek to penalize those who hire such slaves and to halt the practice of slaves hiring apprentices.

PAR Number 11385009

State: South Carolina Year: 1850
Location: Fairfield Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Fifty-four residents of Fairfield District ask that the guardianship law be revised to require white guardians to be responsible not only for free adults of color and but for children of color as well. They propose that, when free children of color reach age twelve, the guardian should "have full and ample power to appoint a guardian to such children"; under the authority of said guardian and with approval of a Justice of the Peace, the children should be bound out to a useful trade until they reach age twenty-one. The petitioners charge that it is problematic when "a free colored person may be raising a family; and notwithstanding he may be under the safety and direction of a guardianship, his family may be let run unbound and unguardianed among our slave population to their damage and of consequence to the serious injury of the master." The petitioners, "making this representation of what seems to our apprehensions a deficiency in the existing laws, and presuming to suggest a remedy, pray that the same may be taken into consideration."

PAR Number 11481720

State: Tennessee Year: 1817
Location: Davidson Location Type: County

Abstract: Eleven residents of Davidson and Williamson counties state that they would never suggest anything "so unreasonable" as a general plan of emancipation, but they ask that slave owners who wish to free their slaves be given the opportunity to do so. The petitioners propose that owners be allowed to petition a county court to free their slaves and that the owners provide emancipated people of color with "a lease on lands for years, free from rent charges & taxes," provisions "adequate for the first year," and livestock and "articles of husbandry."

PAR Number 11483106

State: Tennessee Year: 1831
Location: Roane Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert Bush, a free man of color who operates a blacksmith business in the town of Montgomery, "sustains Great loss by reason of not being a competent witness to prove his book accounts against his customers." Bush asks for a special act to allow him to prove his accounts.

PAR Number 11483903

State: Tennessee Year: 1839
Location: Sumner Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-nine citizens of Sumner County request that James Tuppence, a free man of color, be allowed to remain in the state. They report that the said Tuppence "was bound during his minority to a citizen of Granville County North Carolina" and that "his parents with the balance of the family removed to this State" from North Carolina and have resided in Sumner County "for upwards of Thirty years." The petitioners further reveal that Tuppence, "being actuated by a pious desire of being near to his aged Father, and Kindred," removed to Tennessee in 1837 "having no knowledge that there were any legal restrictions" to his spending "here the remnant of his days." Averring that he and his family have "irreproachable character," they pray that "by special act of the Legislature [James Tuppence] be permitted to reside within the State of Tennessee."

PAR Number 11484503

State: Tennessee Year: 1845
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: John Mooring represents that "Morrison Artis a free Born person of colour was from his Infancy placed under the care and protection of your petitioner by the mother and binding of the court." He further states that said Artis has been "prosecuted and convicted of malicious Shooting and centenced to confinement in the Jail and Penitentiary of the state of Tennessee to hard Labour for three years which deprives your petitioner of three years service." Noting that the sentence corresponds with "your petitioners term," Mooring asserts that he will suffer "an Entire loss ... unless the Legislature of the state will Reimburse your petitioner by an appropriation adequate to [Morrison's] Labour."

PAR Number 11583805

State: Texas Year: 1838
Location: Fort Bend Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert Handy states that his indentured "negro boy" James Robinson journeyed with him to Texas in March 1835 or 1836 and that the two joined the army and saw action at the battle of San Jacinto. Handy recounts that "when a passport was offered him [Robinson] to return to his home and friends [in Philadelphia], he refused it and begged permission to remain and share the fate of those who met the Enemy." The petitioner further states that "while thousands of our citizens were retreating in panic and confusion to the United States, this single minded negro boy, though unacknowledged as a patriot, and bound by no ties of interest; still rose superior to every selfish consideration, and bravely breasted the storm of mexican invasion at the gloomiest hour of our fortunes." Handy asks the legislature to compensate Robinson for his bravery and services.

PAR Number 11585202

State: Texas Year: 1852
Location: Rusk Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-five residents of Rusk County join Tennessee-born free man of color George Tucker in asking that Tucker be permitted to remain in Texas. They represent that Tucker "was bound to T. M. Templeton and was brought by said Templeton to this state" and that he "is now of age and has a wife at C B Bacons in said county." The petitioners state that "he has always demeaned himself honestly and in a manner suitable to his Station in life." They therefore pray that "your honorable body will pass a suitable law allowing him to remain a resident of the state of Texas."

PAR Number 11679201

State: Virginia Year: 1792
Location: Prince William Location Type: County

Abstract: John Crittendon and Luke Cannon, officers in the 15th Virginia Regiment, recruited an indentured mulatto man named Jesse Kelly to serve in the army. Kelly's master, Lewis Lee, brought suit for the loss of his servant. The petitioners explain that they consulted Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee, as well as "an eminent attorney the late Thompson Mason," and that "they were well advised they had a right to recruit the said Kelly." The petitioners declare, however, that nine years later the said Lee recovered a judgment of more than thirty-five pounds, "which your Petitioners being compelled to pay, now pray this Honorable House to be reimbursed as the said Recruit served the time for which he inlisted faithfully, and as his Country & not your Petitioners received the Services of the said Jesse Kelly."

PAR Number 11681410

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Buckingham Location Type: County

Abstract: Billy, a free man of color, represents that he was "by the last Will & Testament of his last master Robert Kincaid emancipated." He reveals, however, that he "has been informed that by an Act of Assembly of Virginia, he is [denied] the privilege of enjoying this blessing within the limits of his native state." Averring that he "is unwilling to leave his native home unless compelled so to do by the laws of the state," the petitioner "begs your honorable body to take his case into consideration & that you will in mercy pass a law by which he may be enabled to reside within the limits of this his native state."

PAR Number 11681503

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Charles City

Abstract: Emancipated about six years prior the filing of his petition, by the "Kindness & liberality" of his late master, Robert Pleasants, free black Henry Carter purchased his slave wife and "other property both personal and real." Carter now wishes to emancipate Priscilla and asks that she be permitted to remain in the commonwealth, exempted from the emigration law.

PAR Number 11681515

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Chesterfield Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1806, Thomas Elmore Trabue died, stipulating in his will that his "negroe boy Roderick be emancipated & set free." He instructed his executor to take Roderick to the Cumberland settlement in Tennessee, give him one hundred acres of land, and provide him with "fifty pounds cash lawfull money of Virginia." This plan failed, however, because of the Tennessee law "inhibiting the introduction of persons of colour." Roderick was taken back to Virginia and apprenticed to a boot and shoemaker. He is now twenty-one years of age and petitions the legislature to be allowed to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11681605

State: Virginia Year: 1816
Location: Norfolk Location Type: County

Abstract: As the son of a Harry Jackson the Elder, a "Regular Branch Pilot of the First class," free black Harry Jackson Jr. grew up navigating Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and was apprenticed by his black father into the trade, as well as taught to read and write. His intention was to follow in his father's footsteps in the profession. When Harry Jr. was nearing the age of twenty, in 1802, a law prohibiting people of color from acting as branch pilots was passed, which nevertheless allowed those already engaged in the profession to continue plying their trade. As Harry Jr. was then already serving as an apprentice to his father, he thought he would qualify under the special allowance clause of the law. He points out to the legislature that his "character & skill as a Pilot is well supported by the annexed certificate of a number of the most respectable Merchants & Gentlemen of Norfolk." He asks to be permitted "to Enjoy the rights of a Pilot," and that the legislature pass a special act allowing him to be examined for a pilot's license by "the Examiners appointed by Law."

PAR Number 11683115

State: Virginia Year: 1831
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: Eighty residents of Culpeper County "assert that the time is near at hand, without your interposition, when the most common and usefull trades will be professed and carried on by slaves ... the effect of which is to throw out of employ the white mechanick; and to degrade his profession, depressing at the same time his labour below its fair value, and to cause him to be impoverished, and finally drive him from his home and native state, to find in the west an assylum where he will be appreciated according to his honesty, industry and ingenuity." They therefore "pray your honorable body to pass a law for the encouragement and protection of the white mechanick, by prohibiting any slave, free negro or mulatto, being placed as an apprentice in any manner whatsoever to learn a trade or art, under severe and onerous penalties upon the owner of such slave, or servant, as well as upon the white person who may undertake to teach such slave, free negro, or mulatto his art or trade."

PAR Number 11683516

State: Virginia Year: 1835
Location: Alleghany Location Type: County

Abstract: Having faithfully served his invalid owner, Dr. John McConell, for more than twenty years as a body servant and blacksmith, Arthur Lee was promised his freedom at his owner's death. McConell however omitted to make provisions for Arthur's freedom, and the latter was purchased by a North Carolina man named Hamilton Brent who permitted him to remain in Virginia if he would turn over $100 of his annual hires. Over the years Arthur Lee paid Brent $1,600 in hires and $500 for his freedom; in addition he was able to save enough money to purchase his wife and child. Three other children have been born since Arthur purchased his family. He asks to remain in the state with his family in his old age. In a related petition Dr. McConell is referred to as McDowell and Hamilton Brent as Hamilton Brown.

PAR Number 11683705

State: Virginia Year: 1837
Location: Bedford Location Type: County

Abstract: Murphy Quarles, a free man of color, informs the legislature that, by her last will and testament, his late owner Anna Maria Quarles directed that he apprenticed to a useful trade until he reached the age of nineteen and emancipated. Murphy is now nineteen and a free man. He asks the legislature for permission to remain in the state until the age of twenty-one, "by which time he will have acquired a thorough knowledge of his trade & will be enabled to accumulate a small sum sufficient to set him up in trade where he shall have removed to another state so as to enable to become as useful a member of society as one of his colour is capable of attaining to." A related document reveals that by her last will and testament the late Ann Maria Quarles emancipated four slaves.

PAR Number 11683718

State: Virginia Year: 1837
Location: Alleghany Location Type: County

Abstract: Permitted to hire his own time as a blacksmith, Arthur Lee purchased himself for $500. His master, Hamilton Brown of North Carolina, could have sold him for $1,200, but allowed him to purchase himself at a reduced price. Once free he was also able to buy his wife for $350. He now lives in Allegheny County with his family and runs a shop at Calligan's Tavern, twenty-four miles from where he served his former infirm master, John McDowell for twenty years. He asks to remain in the area, where he has formed "attachments that nothing but death can destroy." In a related petition, one of Arthur's former owners, John McDowell, is called John McConell and Hamilton Brown is called Hamilton Brent.

PAR Number 11684702

State: Virginia Year: 1847
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: At age ten, Henry Mason was bound out to Charles Jennings of Sussex County for seven years by his owner Joseph Mason. Mason served as an apprentice bricklayer. In 1844, as an adult, he was emancipated by the executor of Mason's last will and testament, Joseph W. Mason, and obtained permission from the Petersburg Hustings Court to remain in the area, but confined to that "place," i.e., Petersburg. Mason now works for some the "largest and most respectable builders" in Richmond, but as it is "difficult at all times to get profitable employment in the town of Petersburg at such wages as his skill as a workman justly and fairly entitle him to, and finds, that his labour in other parts of this state is much more needed, and that with the privilege of moving about to other places he can be of more benefit to the Community as a labourer and at the same time get more profitable employment for himself," he seeks permission to reside in any other place in the Commonwealth of Virginia "where his services may be most needed."

PAR Number 11684807

State: Virginia Year: 1848
Location: Prince Edward Location Type: County

Abstract: In her last will and testament, the late Polly Jackson bequeathed her slave, Jesse Woodson whom she had owned since the time of his birth, to one Tarlton Woodson, directing the latter to free him when he reached the age of twenty five. After Polly Jackson's death, Tarlton apprenticed Jesse to a cabinet maker and freed him in 1847 when the latter reached the age of twenty-five. As a free man, Jesse is now "honestly supporting himself in the exercise of" his trade" and is in the employment of the man who trained him in his craft, George W. Claiborne. He has a slave wife and several children. As a freed slave, he now must seek permission to remain in the state or face expulsion. However, "because of the difficulty and impracticability of convening the justices of is county" to whom he would submit his application, he would not be able to receive permission to remain in the state until the following May, that is after the time period allowed him by law. He therefore must submit his request to the legislature and prays they will allow him "the privilege of remaining the state."

PAR Number 20185926

State: Alabama Year: 1859
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Isabella A. Kelly, married since 1839, claims that in the mid-1840s she discovered that her husband, physician Edwin H. Kelly, was having "constant and undisguised" sex with a slave he owned named Matilda. She contends that Matilda gave birth to two of his children. Isabella left Edwin on several occasions, but always came back when the doctor promised to reform his character. Following their first separation, she began acquiring "separate property," with her husband acting as her agent and trustee. She bought and sold slaves, hired them out, and purchased real estate. With the profits of her various transactions, she purchased a rental house, putting up cash and two as down payment. All the while, she claims, her husband treated her unkindly, forced her to live in uncomfortable circumstances in the hospital where he practiced medicine, and took the profits from her property. In 1859, she finally separated and files a bill of complaint, charging that her husband has taken control of her property. Through a "next friend," she asks the court to remove him from "the trusteeship, management & control of her separate property," and also prays for "proper alimony." In his lengthy answer to the charges, Edwin Kelly gives a very different picture of the marriage, describing his wife as a woman constantly dissatisfied and jealous of every female in their entourage. He accuses her of cruelty toward a slave, stealing his money and trying to defraud him. He denies the charges of adultery and countercharges that his wife has denied him marital right for many years.

PAR Number 20186701

State: Alabama Year: 1867
Location: Pike Location Type: County

Abstract: Eliza Lawson, a woman of color, petitions the court on behalf of her minor children. She explains that in 1865 her children were apprenticed as paupers to their former owner, John B. Lawson. The latter "took possession of her said children"--Jim, Clark, and Isam— and "now holds and detains them" against their wishes, even though the letters of indenture were later revoked by an order of the Probate Court. She contends that Lawson's involuntary detention of her children is in violation of her rights as guardian. She seeks a Writ of Habeas Corpus requiring Lawson to bring the children to court; she asks that the judge make a decision about their future.

PAR Number 20378301

State: Delaware Year: 1783
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: "The Petition of Negro Jim, the indented Servant Lad of a certain Alexander Steel," free black Jim begins his petition, "Humbly Sheweth" that he is "the son of a Free Negro woman named Hannah, late of New Castle County afsd. deced." He states that in 1770 his grandfather Hector, "a Free Negro," consented to his indenture to Steele for nearly sixteen years. Steele promised to furnish Jim "with all the necessaries of Life during the said Term to learn him to read and write & at the Expiration thereof, to give him two Suits of Apparel." Steele has hired out Jim several times. Jim and Thomas Moore, to whom Jim is currently hired, contend that Steele has failed "to perform his part of the Covenants in the afsd. Indentures, to wit to have him taught to read & write." Jim asks the court to summon Steele to answer his charges.

PAR Number 20380040

State: Delaware Year: 1800
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Rees, Betsey Rees, and Sally Hurt, people of color, seek to amend their petition filed "on the fifteenth day of February instant." They explain that they mistakenly named one Lambert Sappington as a defendant to their said petition. They now assert "that the real name of the person in said Petition named and called Lambert Sappington is not Lambert Sappington, but Lemuel Sappington." They ask that the correct name be inserted. The petitioners reiterate their contention that Lemuel Sappington, as agent and attorney of Thomas Sappington, holds and claims them as slaves. They still maintain that "your Petitioners have always been considered as free, have so always hitherto been treated, and they do apprehend that they are entitled to their freedom." They therefore pray that the Sappingtons be summoned and that the court "may adjudge and decree, that your Petitioners are and shall be free." [The Race and Slavery Petitions Project does not have the earlier suit referenced by the petitioners.]

PAR Number 20380902

State: Delaware Year: 1809
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: On 31 August 1807, John Tweed, "by virtue of an assignment," received the services of Jack, alias John Hunter, for "the residue of the term of service remaining unexpired at the date of the said assignment." Tweed recounts that Jack ran away in 1809 and "kept himself concealed and was employed in other persons service." The petitioner has since had Jack arrested and "committed to the prison of New Castle County." Tweed notes that Jack's term of servitude is to expire on 27 April 1814. He therefore asks that it be ordered that Jack "at the expiration of his term of servitude afsd. make satisfaction by servitude for such absence afsd. and expences of taking up and securing the said negro Jack."

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