Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10381501

State: Delaware Year: 1815

Abstract: Twenty-nine members of the African School Society ask the state to pass an act for the Society's incorporation. The petitioners state that the Society has privately educated "the descendants of Africans" for several years and has established a seminary. Noting that "there are now upwards of thirty pupils," the petitioners point out that voluntary contributions have, up to now, been the source of their support. The members represent that the Society's purpose is to lessen the "deplorable ignorance, which characterises So great a portion of their colour, and disqualifies them from the more useful employments of life." As they believe said purpose can better be served "by their being invested with the powers and privileges of a corporate body," the petitioners pray that the Legislature may pass an act to "duly incorporate the members of the said African School Society."

PAR Number 10382301

State: Delaware Year: 1823

Abstract: Twenty-five "Africans or the descendants of Africans, Citizens of the state of Delaware," represent that they "have associated themselves for the diffusion of knowledge and suppression of vice under the Title and name of 'African Benevolent Association.'" They now "do make application to your Honorable body to grant them an Act of Incorporation to enable" them "to purchase, receive, take and hold any lands, tenements, rents, goods and chattels, which may be given, granted, devised or conveyed to them for the purpose aforesaid and to sell, rent and dispose of the same in such manner as to them shall seem most beneficial for the said society." Noting that the association's goal is to provide "mutual relief and improvement of each other," members of the African Benevolent Association "beg leave to bring in a Bill for the purpose aforesaid to lay before your Honors, and request you will take the premises into consideration."

PAR Number 10382501

State: Delaware Year: 1825
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty members of the "African Benevolent Association" seek an act of incorporation for their organization. Formed in 1820 "from the best of motives," the petitioners, "sensible of the ignorance, and consequent moral degradation of their Brethren the people of Colour," assert that the group associated themselves "to promote good order" and to "cultivate virtuous principles" among their "brethren the people of Colour," as well as to provide "relief in sickness, want and distress."

PAR Number 10382504

State: Delaware Year: 1825
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-two citizens "of the Borough of Wilmington respectfully solicit the passage of a Law to incorporate the African Benevolent Association agreeably to the prayer of the Petitioners in the annexed memorial, believing the measure is well adapted to promote the public welfare."

PAR Number 10383001

State: Delaware Year: 1830
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Organizing themselves as the "Sons of Benevolence in the town of Newcastle," seven free men of color seek an act of incorporation. They state "they have entered into an association for the purpose of suppressing vice and immorality among their coloured brethern and of inculcating the practice of those virtues, which can alone ameliorate their present condition." They further represent that the group seeks "to create a fund for burying the dead and taking care of the indigent and sick among our coloured brethern." They therefore pray "that an act may be passed ... agreeably to the above petition."

PAR Number 10384301

State: Delaware Year: 1843
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Two officers of the African School Society seek to amend its original act of incorporation to increase its property holdings beyond $5,000. They report that the Society had expended nearly $2,500 "in the purchase of lots and in the erection of two school houses thereon, capable of receiving about forty children each: one for boys and one for girls." They confess that the income from the remaining funds "is sufficient for the support of one school only, and hence they have been necessitated to discontinue their school for girls." The petitioners declare that "there are several hundreds of colored children in this City, who, being excluded from the benefit of our free schools, remain in a great measure dependent on charity for the means of obtaining the first rudiments of education, or they must otherwise grow up neglected and debased, forming a noxious mass in the midst of our population." They believe that "a property of about Fifteen thousand dollars would answer the purposes now suggested for supplying reasonable means for the education of most of the otherwise destitute colored children in this city." They therefore ask that their "act of incorporation may be so amended as to allow the said Society to hold property to the amount of Fifteen thousand dollars."

PAR Number 10384701

State: Delaware Year: 1847
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-one petitioners state that the African School Society has existed as an association since 1809 until it was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly in 1824. They represent that the Society's goal has been "to establish and support a school in Wilmington exclusively for the benefit and instruction of children of color." They assert that “the Society are still pursuing upon their original principles the same purpose: they believe, that the effect has been to elevate and meliorate the mental and moral character, and the social condition of those to whom the benefits of instruction provided, have been extended." They thus pray "the General Assembly to pass an Act to enlarge the amount of property which the corporation aforesaid may hold to the sum of fifteen thousand dollars."

PAR Number 11279003

State: North Carolina Year: 1790
Location: Perquimans Location Type: County

Abstract: Three petitioners, speaking "in behalf of the Inhabitants of Perquimans County," complain that "great numbers of free Negroes have been taken up in the County and sold and the monies arising from such Sales have been paid into the Treasury." The petitioners "humbly pray that you will pass a Law authorizing the Sheriff to pay to the Wardens of the Poor of this County such a sum of money arising from the Sales of such liberated negroes for the purpose of building a House for the reception of the poor." The attached Committee report notes that "a number of the People call'd Quakers who reside in County of Perquimans have at sundry times liberated their slaves, and that many of the said slaves have been seized and sold."

PAR Number 11282710

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: Guilford Location Type: County

Abstract: The petition "of the Female Benevolent Associations of JamesTown, Springfield, and Kennet" calls the legislature's attention to the evil of slavery "which was brought upon us by our forefathers, and is growing with a rapidity which must put at hazard everything that is near and dear to us." The women particularly object to the practices which "degrade the Female Slaves, and render them unacquainted with the honours due to Chastity, both in speech and behaviour." The petitioners pose that "is it not degrading to humanity to see the back of the matron exposed to public view, (although a Slave) and severely lacerated by the whip for trivial offences?”; they find it "still more shocking to see the mother and her infant offspring separated by a Sale." The petitioners therefore "earnestly entreat" the legislature "to meliorate the condition of this unhappy people as much as possible; by prohibiting the separation of the mothers from their tender infants; and restricting Masters in the administration of corporal punishments from the shameful practice of stripping the black matron's back -- it is a sight too shocking to behold in any Country, and much more in this civilized land of boasted Liberty."

PAR Number 11385602

State: South Carolina Year: 1856
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Twenty-three members of the Brotherly Association of Charleston, an organization of free persons of color, seek an act of incorporation "with power to hold and possess real and personal estate to the amount of Ten Thousand dollars." The petitioners report that "they have with their contributions purchased a Tract of land in the vicinity of the City of Charleston and laid the same off as a burial ground for themselves and others who may join them."

PAR Number 11484601

State: Tennessee Year: 1846
Location: Humphreys Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Hunt Larkins, the widow of slaveholder Spencer T. Hunt, seeks to nullify a provision in his will giving "a large Portion of his Estate to the Counties of Humphrey and Dickson for Common School purposes." Larkins states that she married Hunt in 1820 and that "at the time of the marriage the said Hunt was in indigent circumstances." She asserts that "by the joint labour economy & industry of your petitioner & the said Hunt they soon accumulated a large portion of Real & personal property." The petitioner points out, however, that her late husband "Bequeathed nearly all of his property to your petitioner during her life or Widowhood and then to the counties of Humphreys & Dickson which Bequest your petitioner considers unjust." Larkins "therefore prays your Honorable Body to pass an act for her Special benefit in as much as the citizens of Humphreys and Dickson Counties are all willing to relinquish all claims that they may have to the property Bequeathed to the two counties by the last Will of her husband Spencer T Hunt."

PAR Number 11586701

State: Texas Year: 1867
Location: Wharton Location Type: County

Abstract: Nineteen residents of Wharton County propose the establishment of "an Orphans Assylum and manual laboring Institute, for the Education of Freed minors and orphans of the African race." They believe that the condition of "the Entire Black population [that] have been emancipated" as well as the condition of "the White Citizens Among whom they are destined to remain would be infinitely bettered by extending to them the advantage of an Education." They "believe such an institution can be organized upon a Plantation productive in Cotton, Corn, Potatoes and other vegetables that will not only afford the means of Education to 3 or 400 a year, and at the same time instruct them in sound morals, and industrial habits." Of the firm opinion that "the matter should be under the Control of Southern men," the petitioners pray that the legislature "grant unto them a Charter, whereby they may become a body Corporate for that purpose."

PAR Number 11678302

State: Virginia Year: 1783
Location: Nansemond Location Type: County

Abstract: The "Vestry & Churchwardens of the Lower Parish of Nansemond County" represent that the late Richard Bennett bequeathed "Certain Lands, Negroes, &C in Trust ... for the purpose of raising the sum of Thirty pounds Virginia Money Annually for Ever, and paying the same into the Hands of the Vestry of the said Parish, for the express purpose of Cloathing such & so many poor people men & Women as the Vestry & Churchwardens of the said parish should Judge to be most needy of necessitous." They further report that the trustee, George Parker, sold said property for six hundred pounds but the conversion to paper currency reduced said sum to half of its value "to the manifest injury of the poor of the Parish." They therefore "in behalf of the said poor, do most graciously implore the Interposition of your Honble House."

PAR Number 11680923

State: Virginia Year: 1809
Location: Amelia Location Type: County

Abstract: Amelia County residents seek to emancipate the family of Frank Gowen, an industrious free black man who purchased his wife and children, with whom he then lived "in peace and quietude." Gowen has recently died and although "no individual claim whatever has been or can be made to his family— Patience and the children Philemon, Elizabeth and Henry—the four slaves are nevertheless liable to be sold by the Overseers of the Poor. Patience and the children are honest, peaceful, and respectable, and deserve special consideration, the petitioners assure the legislative body.

PAR Number 11681212

State: Virginia Year: 1812
Location: Charlotte Location Type: County

Abstract: William Gaines represents that he purchased a "very valuable house servant" named Stephen in 1812 from "a certain John Williamson of the State of South Carolina." Gaines states that he realized the next day, however, that said purchase had violated the law prohibiting the introduction of slaves into the state for sale or trade. Unsuccessful in his efforts to nullify his contract, the petitioner reports that the overseers of the poor took Stephen and sold him "with the express intention, that he should be carried into another state & sold." Pleading for the "mercy of the General Assembly," Gaines prays that he be allowed "the proceeds of the aforesaid sale."

PAR Number 11681303

State: Virginia Year: 1813
Location: King George Location Type: County

Abstract: In her will, Mary Matthews freed her slaves and directed her executor to take them to some place where they would "enjoy their freedom." One of the freed slaves, Lucinda, refused to leave, explaining that her husband lived in King George County, and nothing could make her leave him, not even her freedom. A year passed, and now fearful of being sold by the overseers of the poor, she asks to return to slavery as the servant of her husband's owner, Captain William H. Hooe.

PAR Number 11682203

State: Virginia Year: 1822
Location: Rockbridge Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-five-year-old Watt Smiley, "a free negro of the County of Rockbridge," represents that "he was emancipated by Charles P Dorman of said County by deed bearing date the 18th of November 1818." In compliance with the law, Smiley states that "he has been in the state of Ohio but having left a family of young children in said county ... by a wife who was free born & therefore not subject to the operation of the law," he is anxious "to return to his children who he has it not in his power to remove." The petitioner therefore prays "that an act may pass permitting him to spend the remnant of his days in the Commonwealth without being subject to the penalties of the laws" that require he "be apprehended & sold out by the overseers of the poor of this County."

PAR Number 11682301

State: Virginia Year: 1823
Location: Norfolk Location Type: County

Abstract: Seventeen residents of Norfolk County represent that in 1715 Mathew Godfrey bequeathed three slaves to the county "whose hire and profits were to be appropriated to the use of the Poor of the said County." Over the years the three, a man and two women, "have increas'd and now amount to about thirty." The petitioners purport that as hirelings said slaves earn less than might be obtained if they were sold and the money invested in "good Security." They therefore "pray that a Law may pass authorising, and directing the Overseers of the Poor of Norfolk County ... to make Sale of the Slaves."

PAR Number 11682705

State: Virginia Year: 1827
Location: Prince George Location Type: County

Abstract: Billy, a free man of color, joins nine other free people of color, in representing that "by the will of Jane Barr ... they were all emancipated." They further declare that "it was made the duty of the Executor of the said will, if your Petitioners could lawfully remain in the state to purchase a piece of land for each of your Petitioners equal in value to one hundred dollars each"; if it were now lawful to remain in Virginia, the executor "should remove them to some other state where they might be free and purchase" said land for them there. The petitioners report "that Mrs. Barr's will was admitted to record in the year 1823" and that said Executor "has failed to give them the lands devised to them." Lamenting that "they are mere tenants at will of liberty and may be deprived of it at any moment by the Overseers of the Poor," the petitioners assert that, "should the General Assembly in its mercy think proper to permit them to remain in this State" after receiving their due legacy from said executor, "they will be able to reach the settlement on the coast of Africa of Free people of Color where they will most assuredly go if that settlement should continue to prosper & increase as it has heretofore." They therefore pray that they be permitted "to remain in this State as free persons until they can accomplish this."

PAR Number 11682708

State: Virginia Year: 1827
Location: Accomack Location Type: County

Abstract: Littleton P. Henderson represents that "the overseers of the Poor of the County of Accomack ... proceeded to sell at public auction many of the free negroes residing in the said county, the proceeds arising from which sale have been paid into the public Treasury to the Credit of the Literary Fund." Henderson further asserts that "amongst the number of free negros thus sold by the said overseers of the Poor, there was a certain Jim Outten who at the time of the sale was in the city of Baltimore, & who had never been in [their] custody." The petitioner, "conceiving the sale to be conducted according to law & knowing the character & worth of the said Jim Outten," admits that he "was induced to bid for him and actually bought him at the price of $50." Henderson reports that the said Jim Outten instituted a freedom suit and "at the last August term of the said Court he recovered a judgement against your petitioner and was restored to his former rights and privileges." Believing "that he has a just and equitable demand against the president & directors of the Literary Fund," the petitioner prays that he be refunded "the purchase money paid by him for the said Jim Outten & legal interest thereon (as he never derived any benefit from the services of the said negro)."

PAR Number 11683008

State: Virginia Year: 1830
Location: Goochland Location Type: County

Abstract: Jacob Sampson, a free man of color, represents that "he married Frankey Cross, the acknowledged & reputed child of Moses Cross," a free man of color. He further states that his said father-in-law died during the present year, "leaving no other child who is free, than the wife of your Petitioner -- Nor has the said Moses Cross, any relative who can inherit his estate." The petitioner is advised that the personal estate of said Cross "will pass & be vested in the Commonwealth, for the benefit of the President & Directors of the Literary Fund," thus depriving "his child & grandchildren of that which will be inconsiderable to the Commonwealth, but which will be of great consequence to them." Sampson therefore prays that the General Assembly "release to him & his wife, all the claim of the Commonwealth, to the undisposed of residuum of the estate of Moses Cross, after the payment of his just debts."

PAR Number 11683211

State: Virginia Year: 1832
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred nineteen residents of Fauquier County represent that they have "long witnessed the corruption of the slaves by the free negroes of this commonwealth" and that they are "thoroughly convinced that the interest and perhaps the safety and peace of slaveholders if not of the whole white population and the welfare of the slaves themselves call boldly for the passage of a law excluding free persons of colour from the state." They further propose that "such as remain longer than the 1st of January 1837 shall be subject to public sale for the benefit of the literary fund of our state."

PAR Number 11683413

State: Virginia Year: 1834
Location: Accomack Location Type: County

Abstract: John G. Joynes represents that "at a meeting of the Overseers of the Poor ... held on the 6th day of June, 1825, an order was made by the said Overseers of the Poor that they would apprehend and sell one of those free negroes within their county who had been emancipated since the first day of May 1806 and had remained within this Commonwealth more than twelve months after their right to freedom had accrued." Joynes states that "in obedience to this order the said overseers of the poor actually made sale of eight of those free negroes residing in different parts of the said county of Accomack" and that "amongst these was a certain Jim Outten alias James Outten, who was purchased by a certain Littleton P. Henderson at the price of Fifty Dollars." He further recounts that said Outten sued and recovered his freedom and that said Henderson "instituted a suit ... against your petitioner for the purchase money of the said Jim Outten." Noting that "a judgment was thereupon rendered by the said court in favour of the plaintiff against your petitioner," Joynes therefore "believes that he has a well founded claim upon the justice of this Commonwealth for full and complete remuneration for the damages which he has sustained."

PAR Number 11683904

State: Virginia Year: 1839
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Emma represents that Stephen Zell emancipated her husband Burk in 1817 and that "soon thereafter your petitioner was purchased from the said Zell, by her said Husband." She further states that she and her husband "lived as free persons ... and were so living when the said Burk died in the year 1837." Emma notes that "at the time of his death your petitioner was no doubt the slave of the said Burk, and as such, constituted a part of his estate." Admitting that she "is far advanced in life, and who as a slave, would now be comparatively valueless," the petitioner is aware that "his little property under the laws of the Commonwealth, escheated to the Literary fund of the State." Emma therefore prays "that a law may be passed relinquishing in her favour the claim of the Commonwealth or of the literary fund of the state, to the estate of her said deceased husband."

PAR Number 11684301

State: Virginia Year: 1843
Location: King and Queen Location Type: County

Abstract: Edward S. Acree, the guardian of Pyke M., Enoch M., and Mary E. Clayton, minor children of Peter Clayton, who died about 1833, asks that the land or slaves the children inherited from their grandmother, Elizabeth Fox, be sold. The estate of Peter Clayton is insolvent and the only property owned by the children is what was left to them by their grandmother, which is "totally inadequate to their support." The petitioner states that the slaves in the estate consist of Caroline and her two children, who hired out in 1843 for "food and clothing only" and who in a few years will become "chargeable." The land consists of about fifty acres and can rent for only $18 a year. The Overseers of the Poor are unwilling to levy anything to support the children until after the property had been sold, the petitioner states.

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