Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10381816

State: Delaware Year: 1818

Abstract: Twenty-five citizens of Delaware express concern about the increasing number of kidnappings of free people of color, who are "wrested from their families and carried into perpetual bondage." They assert that this "iniquitous traffic" is "both known and deplored by many of the members of the Legislature themselves; but bounds can never be set to its progress, till some Law be granted whose penalty shall exceed the hope of advantage from this commerce." They further note that the grand jury of Baltimore County "are among others, petitioners to the Legislature of Maryland, for a Law of similar effect with that for which we petition." The petitioners "therefore submit our Memorial and Petition to the Legislature, expecting its success from their justice, and hoping it from their humanity."

PAR Number 10381817

State: Delaware Year: 1818

Abstract: Seventy-four citizens of Delaware express concern about the increasing number of kidnappings of free people of color, who are "wrested from their families and carried into perpetual bondage." They assert that this "iniquitous traffic" is "both known and deplored by many of the members of the Legislature themselves; but bounds can never be set to its progress, till some Law be granted whose penalty shall exceed the hope of advantage from this commerce." They further note that the grand jury of Baltimore County "are among others, petitioners to the Legislature of Maryland, for a Law of similar effect with that for which we petition." The petitioners "therefore submit our Memorial and Petition to the Legislature, expecting its success from their justice, and hoping it from their humanity."

PAR Number 10381818

State: Delaware Year: 1818

Abstract: Fifty-five citizens of Delaware express concern about the increasing number of kidnappings of free people of color, who are "wrested from their families and carried into perpetual bondage." They assert that this "iniquitous traffic" is "both known and deplored by many of the members of the Legislature themselves; but bounds can never be set to its progress, till some Law be granted whose penalty shall exceed the hope of advantage from this commerce." They further note that the grand jury of Baltimore County "are among others, petitioners to the Legislature of Maryland, for a Law of similar effect with that for which we petition." The petitioners "therefore submit our Memorial and Petition to the Legislature, expecting its success from their justice, and hoping it from their humanity."

PAR Number 10381901

State: Delaware Year: 1819

Abstract: Twenty-six Delaware citizens seek the return of Benjamin Benson, a free man of color who was "kidnaped by some evil disposed person or persons concerned in the traffic of human flesh near our town and taken & sold in the county of Guilford State of North Carolina for a slave during life." They report that "by the laudable assistance of a friend to Humanity in that State we have his case in a fair way to recover his freedom But it appears to be absolutely necessary to effect an object so desireable that his person should be Identified in a court of Justice qualified to hear said case." They ask the governor to appoint a person from Delaware who is acquainted with Benson to go to North Carolina and identify him as a free man.

PAR Number 10381902

State: Delaware Year: 1819
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: James Lackey seeks relief from fines assessed after he and two other men were convicted of assault and battery with intent to kidnap. The charges were brought by Preston Moore, a free man of color, and Lackey's indented servant. Lackey argues that the fines are excessive, that Moore's character is questionable, and that the governor had already remitted the "odious part of the Sentence whereby your petitioner, and the other two Defendants were subject to stand in the Pillory for the space of half an hour." Lackey reveals that he purchased Moore, “with a view to have his Labour on the Farm,” from the New Castle jail, where Moore was imprisoned "for his evil Deeds."

PAR Number 10383702

State: Delaware Year: 1837

Abstract: In 1809, Delaware resident John Cooper manumitted several slaves, including a woman named Lydia. By 1826, Lydia had married John Hawkins, a free man of color, and the couple had three children (Charity, Sally, and John) and were living in Caroline County, Maryland. However, John Cooper's son-in-law, John Willoughby, convinced Cooper that the Delaware manumissions were not valid in Maryland and that Cooper faced prosecution for allowing his former slaves to move there. Willoughby thus "seduced" Cooper to sign a deed conveying Lydia and her children to Willoughby, to Cooper's son, Richard, and to other relatives. Soon after, Willoughby and Richard Cooper took Lydia and her children to the Sussex County jail with "the intention to selling them to southern traders." John Cooper and another of his sons learned of this and demanded the former slaves be released, which they were. The freed slaves were never bothered again during John Cooper's life, the petitioner states. In April 1836, however, Willoughby and a gang of armed men kidnapped Hawkins' three children and the children of others freed by John Cooper and carried them to the jail in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. Willoughby's objective was to sell them to "foreign traders, or carry them to the south himself." The case of their freedom is still pending in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. Hawkins seeks an act that would affirm the legality of the manumission of his wife and children.

PAR Number 11481503

State: Tennessee Year: 1815
Location: Humphreys Location Type: County

Abstract: Eighty-five petitioners defend John Farmer, "whom we believe to be an honest, upright and good citizen" and who "has been deprived of the privileges of a Free Citizen." They report that Farmer, in the heat of an argument, stated that Thomas Laneir "had sold a parcel of free negroes"; Laneir sued and Farmer later "gave Laneir a piece of writing importing that what he had said was the effect of passion and that he was sorry for it." The petitioners, not pretending "to say that his assertions against Laneir were correct," do, however, "fully believe that it was the general opinion, at that time, that Laneir was concerned in the selling of sd free negroes." They therefore "humbly pray that said John Farmer may be restored to all the privileges of Citizenship, which we think him in justice entitled to."

PAR Number 11678403

State: Virginia Year: 1784
Location: Fairfax Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah Greene and her two children were promised their freedom by their master Rev. Charles Greene, who died before he could execute his promise; the law at the time did not permit emancipation by will. Before he died, he extracted a promise from his wife, also named Sarah Greene, that she would free the slaves. The widow married Dr. William Savage before freeing the slaves, however, and Savage carried her to Ireland and left her while he returned to Virginia. Sarah Greene and her children, now numbering four, were allowed to "enjoy their Liberty for many years" until a relative of Dr. Savage named Rice kidnapped two of her children, carried them to "Carolina," and is now attempting to "carry off your petitioner" and her other two children. The petitioner "humbly hopes that your honble house will pass an act to confirm to herself and Children that Freedom which it was the wish and intention of their Master that they should enjoy. and to which Doctor Savage had himself assented as part of his marriage Contract."

PAR Number 11680202

State: Virginia Year: 1802

Abstract: A group of Quakers present their petition to the legislature to protest the suffering of free blacks whose "undoubted" rights are being violated with impunity because enforcement of the law that protects such right is not applied with enough vigor to discourage perpetrators. They specifically represent that children who have been emancipated by will but placed under white guardianship during their minority are carried out of state and sold as slaves; and adults in the enjoyment of their freedom are kidnapped and taken away and enslaved. The petitioners pray that the laws be revised to halt these practices.

PAR Number 20381405

State: Delaware Year: 1814
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Residents of New Castle County ask that Abraham Lee's application to keep a public house be denied. They charge, among other things, that Lee tried to "carry of[f] by force and Arms Negro Preston Moore with Intent (as is believed) to send him the sd Preston to Georgia." They also cite that it "has been found against him the sd Abm Lee for Kidnaping Negro Eliza."

PAR Number 20483304

State: District of Columbia Year: 1833
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert Thomas, a person of color, states that "he is entitled to his freedom & is unlawfully held in confinement" in the jail of Washington Robey. He asks the court to issue a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20483501

State: District of Columbia Year: 1835
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Jones H. Jenkins states that he is a free person of color illegally confined in the Washington County Jail, charged with being a runaway slave, for the second time. On the first occasion, Jenkins was able to produce his freedom papers and be released by order of the court. In this instance, he asserts that his freedom papers were taken from him. Jenkins asks for a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20484709

State: District of Columbia Year: 1847
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: John E. Ricard states that four or five years ago a Negro woman, Louisa Mason, placed her four-month-old son, Richard, under his care. Louisa has since died, and the Justices of the Peace for the Orphans Court bound Richard as an apprentice to Ricard "to learn the art trade and mystery of a Cook." Ricard complains that John Dandney and two other men seized the boy in the night and took him to "the Poor House Department of the Washington Asylum." Ricard seeks a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Richard Mason.

PAR Number 20485001

State: District of Columbia Year: 1850
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Contee, a free woman of color, states that she is the nearest legal relative of her brother, Basil Barnes, who is seven years of age. Contee states that Barnes is the illegitimate child of a free woman of color, Rachel Barnes, now deceased, and John Olliday, a slave, the property of Mrs. Lyell or Lyells of Georgetown. The petitioner complains that William Mulloy has forcibly taken the child Basil from her custody and carried him to a place unknown to her. She states that "these facts your petitioner is ready to prove by competent white testimony." Contee seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20681910

State: Georgia Year: 1819
Location: Jones Location Type: County

Abstract: John Humphries, acting as the guardian of Jinny, Milly, Sucky and Sally, instituted a suit against one John McKenzie "for the recovery of the freedom of the said Negroes." McKenzie was required by the court to execute a $4,500 bond to ensure that the four appeared in court; he did so, they appeared, and the court concurred that they were free. However, they were subsequently enticed or taken away from the sheriff's custody by one Jeremiah McKenzie, John McKenzie's son. Humphries sued for penalty, claiming violation of the bond. Now John McKenzie has died and his guarantors on the bond are insolvent. Aaron McKenzie has become entirely responsible for payment of the penalty. He sues for a dismissal of the penalty on several grounds. First, he claims that Humphries's wards disappeared after the verdict on their freedom not during the trial. Second, two of them have been recovered from Jeremiah McKenzie. Third, he claims that the deed of emancipation, which was the basis for the freedom verdict, was "condemned" in the state of Virginia. McKenzie asks for an injunction to hold proceedings on the payment of the penalty until the chancery court has met.

PAR Number 20682403

State: Georgia Year: 1824
Location: Elbert Location Type: County

Abstract: John A. Heard is the guardian of ten free persons of color. William Davis, however, "possessed himself of the above named Persons of Colour." Heard claims that the loss of his wards' services is "against the peace and Dignity of said State." He sues Davis for $10,000 in damages.

PAR Number 20682719

State: Georgia Year: 1827
Location: Upson Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Baysmore states that, on 10 July 1826, the Inferior Court of Upson "did bind out to service to your petitioner" eight free people of color, ranging in age from eighteen to three years old, "until they individually arrived to the age of twenty one years." On 3 January 1827, John Keener and James Wallis "with force and arms &c broke and entered" into Baysmore's property and "seized took and drove" the eight free black apprentices from his house and "converted and dispose of the same to their own use And other rongs to your petitioner then and there did against the peace and dignity of said state to the damage of your petitioner two thousand dollars." Baysmore asks the court to summon Keener.

PAR Number 20684001

State: Georgia Year: 1840
Location: Troup Location Type: County

Abstract: On 8 July 1837, Ryel Black wrote a promissory note for $56.50, agreeing to pay that amount to John Calhoun or the bearer of the note. John Calhoun's son Jesse became the bearer and presented it for repayment, but Black "hitherto refused and still does refuse" to pay. Calhoun seeks payment of the amount owed, plus interest and court costs. He asks the court to subpoena Black. In his plea and answer, Ryel Black alleges that John Calhoun, acting as agent for a Mr. Homes of South Carolina, fraudulently sold to Black a "coloured free person" for $700, claiming that the boy was a slave. A South Carolina court found Calhoun and Homes guilty of stealing and kidnapping a free person of color. Black returned the boy. John Calhoun offered to return Black's original promissory note in exchange for fifty dollars. Black wrote the second note, but later told the Calhouns he would not pay the debt.

PAR Number 20783312

State: Kentucky Year: 1833
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: George Winters claims that he is a free man of color, born to a free mother in Virginia. He has commenced an action at law for "trespass assault & battery and false imprisonment" against Joseph Dough. Dough, who claims him as a slave, is working him on board the steamboat Vermillion and is about to take him to Louisiana. Winters asks that Dough be restrained from removing him and that he be hired out "to service where he may also attend to the prosecution of his case."

PAR Number 20784010

State: Kentucky Year: 1840
Location: Fayette Location Type: County

Abstract: Phoebe Gillis, a woman of color, states "that she is a free woman and has for a long time been most unjustly held in bondage." Asserting that "she was born free," Gillis claims that Esther Morrison and Henry Clay have deprived her of her freedom. Noting that "she is poor and unable to pay the expenses of a suit," Phoebe asks that she "may have proper answers, subpoenas" and that she be provided "such full and perfect relief" to which she is entitled.

PAR Number 20784508

State: Kentucky Year: 1845
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Eight-year-old Caroline, a girl of color, asserts, by her next friend William Gilless, that she was born a free by virtue of having a white mother. Her mother, following a divorce, gave birth to Caroline, "her father being a man of color." Caroline was later turned her over to Michael Stephens, her mother's half-brother. Stephens has since acted as an "unnatural and inhuman uncle," and he sold Caroline to J. W. Brawner and James Quarles. Despite their knowledge of her claim to freedom, they took her to Louisville and sold her to Stephen Chenoworth and William Kelly. Caroline is currently in the possession of John Price, who has hired her for a term of five years. Caroline fears that Kelly and Price may take her out of the state. She asks that the defendants "be restrained from removeing her from this Commonwealth" and that "on the final hearing a decree be rendered confirming and establishing her right to Freedom."

PAR Number 20785218

State: Kentucky Year: 1852
Location: Floyd Location Type: County

Abstract: James T. Ford states that seventeen-year-old William "was bound to him by the Floyd County Court as a free boy" until William reached the age of twenty-one. Ford charges that William C. McReynolds and Drewry B. Brown "illegely arested the Said boy out of his posesion and detanes him as a slave." Ford seeks monetary damages for William.

PAR Number 20785219

State: Kentucky Year: 1852
Location: Floyd Location Type: County

Abstract: James T. Ford states "that he is entitled to the person of a male boy of collor named William about Seventeen years old of a bright mulatto collor or complexion." Ford charges that William McReynolds and D. B. Brown unlawfully took William from his possession. He seeks $300 in damages and the recovery of William, "a bound boy."

PAR Number 20785220

State: Kentucky Year: 1852
Location: Floyd Location Type: County

Abstract: George W. Mayo charges that William McReynolds and Drury B. Brown took William, an eleven-year-old free boy of color, "with force & arms illegely arested the said boy and took him out of the posesion of the Said plaintiff and detanese him from the plf as a slave." Mayo claims "that he was entiteld to the Servises of Said boy till he was twenty one years of age." Mayo seeks monetary damages from McReynolds and Brown in the amount of five hundred dollars.

PAR Number 20785221

State: Kentucky Year: 1852
Location: Floyd Location Type: County

Abstract: Jerry Mayo, who is "a free child of Couller and never was a Slave," joins other free people of color, who all sue by George Mayo, their next friend, in charging that William McReynolds and Drewry B. Brown hold them as slaves. Mayo asks "that all the propper orders be made and the plaintiff[s] ... be set at liberty."

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