Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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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 11683609

State: Virginia Year: 1836
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-five residents of Culpeper County ask that sixty-year-old Robin be permitted to remain in Virginia. They recount that the late Benjamin Ferguson emancipated said Robin, who was "compelled to leave the state." They further report that Robin went to Ohio where "he remained some time, but not being reconciled to live without his wife," he "has lately returned to Virginia and is anxious to remain." The petitioners avow that the free man of color "would prefer returning to slavery to losing the society of his wife." They therefore pray "your honorable body the passage of a law permitting him to live out the balance of his days here where he was born and where he hopes to die." The petitioners aver that Robin is "one of the best disposed and most orderly men of his colour in the country and at the same time he is useful as a handy man with tools in various ways."

PAR Number 11683910

State: Virginia Year: 1839
Location: Isle of Wight Location Type: County

Abstract: Lizzy Purdie, a fifty-eight-year-old free woman of color, represents that her late owner emancipated her in his last will and testament and "he devised a small property to aid her for support in the decline of life." Noting that "her relations and friends" are all here, Purdie admits that "she is most sincerely anxious to remain in the County of Isle of Wight, if it be the pleasure of the general Assembly to grant to her that boon." The petitioner confides that "to be required now and forced to go into a foreign land at her advanced age, would be an evil to her much worse than slavery, and she would take upon her now a state of bondage with a good master of her choice rather than go away." Purdie promises the General Assembly "that she shall not become a public charge" if "you will allow her to remain" in Virginia."

PAR Number 11683913

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

Abstract: Sixty-two-year-old Stephen Bias asks to remain in the state of Virginia. Bias represents that he purchased his freedom from Joel W. Brown and that said Brown "executed a deed of emancipation in favour of your petitioner" on 25 October 1837. He further relates that "he emigrated to the state of Ohio in the Fall of the year 1837 with the sincere hope and desire that he should be able to spend the remainder of his days happily and contentedly." He laments, however, that "he found after a trial of about six months residence there, that so marked was the difference in the manners and habits of the people of Ohio" that "he would prefer being sold into slavery in Virginia to being again compelled to emigrate & reside in the state of Ohio." A hostler by trade, Bias also discloses that he “purchased his wife of a certain John Winn of the town of Charlottesville at the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars which sum he has entirely paid off." The petitioner therefore prays "that your Honourable Body will grant him permission to remain within the Commonwealth of Virginia."

PAR Number 11686102

State: Virginia Year: 1861
Location: Augusta Location Type: County

Abstract: Walker Fitch, a free man of color, represents "that he is tired of his condition of Freedom and is desirous of choosing a master & changing his condition to that of Slavery." He therefore "prays your Honorable Body to pass a Law authorizing his enslavement to Mr. [Michael G.] Harman." Harman attests that "he is the owner of the Wife & children of said Walker & has had him in his employment for several years, & is willing to accept said Walker as his slave upon equitable terms."

PAR Number 20186004

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: Jephtha, a free person of color, seeks to surrender his freedom and become the slave of Alexander Scoggin, "a white person of good moral character and standing, residing permanently in said State." The court "ordered, adjudged and decreed that the said free person of color, Jephtha, hereafter be the slave of the said Alexander Scoggin, and belong to him, his heirs, executors and administrators under and by virtue of a act of the legislature of said State, approved February 25th 1860." George W. Gayle, a witness to said proceedings, states that Jephtha was "free from any undue influence and that he desired to surrender his freedom ... because he was subject to fits, and wanted some one to take care of him -- and that he was over the age of twenty one years."

PAR Number 20186011

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: James Fagin, representing "that he is a free mullatto man over twenty one years of age commonly called a free negro, his father a whiteman and his mother a free mullatto," is "desirous of entering into the condition of slavery and further sheweth your Honor, that he has selected ... Ann Reese, ... a white person of good moral character and standing as his mistress or owner." Voluntarily and free from influence, Fagin attests that he "now really desires to surrender freedom and to become the slave of Ms Ann Reese aforesaid."

PAR Number 20186037

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Chambers Location Type: County

Abstract: Cora, a free woman of color, represents that "she intends & desires to become the slave of said Elizabeth C Witter," with whom she "has been living." Cora cites her reason for "being owned as property by her" is due to "the attachment and affection she has and bears to the said Elizabeth C Witter, and that the Legislature of the State of Alabama has passed an act for the purpose of allowing the same, approved on the 10th February 1860."

PAR Number 20186038

State: Alabama Year: 1860
Location: Chambers Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Witter, the guardian of Cora, a free woman of color, seeks to be appointed the guardian of Cora's fourteen-month-old son George. Contending that "said minor is two young to be seperated from the mother," the petitioner purports that he "can more sufficiently Guard and protect the interest of said minor." Witter further states that "the mother can have more access to said infant under the guardianship of your petitioner." In a related petition filed the same day, Cora sought to surrender her freedom and prayed to become the slave of Elizabeth Witter, Henry's wife.

PAR Number 20379503

State: Delaware Year: 1795
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Dennis, "a free negro" who is "now upwards of Seventy years of age," asks to be sold into servitude for a sufficient period to satisfy court costs and damages on felony indictments adjudged against him.

PAR Number 20379505

State: Delaware Year: 1795
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Convicted of a felony but entirely destitute of property, Jesse Brooks asks that he be sold into servitude in order to pay the costs incurred by his conviction.

PAR Number 20379506

State: Delaware Year: 1795
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Jailed on a felony charge, Samuel Legg asserts his innocence. No one has appeared to "prosecute against him," he says, and no one ever will. He therefore asks the court to be released and sold into slavery to pay the costs incurred by his confinement.

PAR Number 20379516

State: Delaware Year: 1795
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Isaac Jessops, a "free negro," asks to be sold into servitude for a sufficient period to satisfy court costs and damages on three felony indictments adjudged against him.

PAR Number 20381905

State: Delaware Year: 1819
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Stephen Hall, a free man of color, asks to be sold for a term of servitude to pay "for a fine and fees for Committing an Assault and Battery on Catharine Smith free mulatto." Hall informs the court that he has been in jail for over three months, and "he is unable to pay said fine and fees, in any other way than by servitude."

PAR Number 20586102

State: Florida Year: 1861
Location: Jackson Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Reed, a free person of color, asks to be enslaved. Reed represents that "he is of African descent, a free person of Color over the age of fourteen years," and that he "is tired of liberty and its ills and inconveniences." He has selected Sidney S. Alderman to be his master and asks the court to approve the appointment.

PAR Number 20586112

State: Florida Year: 1861
Location: Escambia Location Type: County

Abstract: Florida Bright, a free mulatto woman, states that "she is desirous of going into a state of slavery." She therefore asks that Captain Walter L. Cozzens be confirmed as "her future master."

PAR Number 20586401

State: Florida Year: 1864
Location: Jackson Location Type: County

Abstract: Sidney S. Alderman petitions for a change of venue in the case involving his appointment as "master" to Henry Reed, a free person of color who wishes to become a slave. Alderman states "that your Honor is disqualified from presiding in said cause by reason of having been of counsel for petitioner in said case." He therefore asks the court "to grant an order transfering the same to the Circuit Court of Leon County in the Middle Judicial Court in said State of Florida."

PAR Number 20785001

State: Kentucky Year: 1850
Location: Fayette Location Type: County

Abstract: Maria is suing Rebecca Kirby for freedom. In 1848, Kirby, assuming the name Rebecca Boyd and posing as Joseph Boyd's wife, took Maria to Pennsylvania. Maria charges that while Kirby was in Pennsylvania, Samuel Brown obtained a writ of habeas corpus on her behalf and the same was returned before the Court of Common Pleas. Kirby contended that Maria was her slave for life by virtue of a purchase in Kentucky, yet the court granted Maria freedom. Maria charges Kirby reneged on a contract to return to Kentucky in exchange for certain considerations. Maria avows that "she never waived her right to freedom." She made her contract as a free woman, returned as a free woman, and "supposed no restraint could be put upon her." Kirby is now threatening to sell her out of the state into "hopeless bondage." Maria wishes to sue in forma pauperis and asks for $200 in damages for her detention.

PAR Number 20882603

State: Louisiana Year: 1826
Location: Concordia Location Type: Parish

Abstract: William Parker Jr. represents that he is "desirous of emancipating in due form of Law" his female slave named Rebecca, also known as Becky, who is "upwards of thirty years of age." He further represents that Becky, being an "honest faithful and diligent servant" and never having run away or committed any crime, is well "entitled to the benefits of the act" of 9th March 1807 relative to the emancipation of slaves. Parker therefore prays the court for an "order of notification" of his intention to emancipate, as required by law.

PAR Number 21286105

State: North Carolina Year: 1861
Location: Guilford Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-four-year-old free black John Phillips makes a "public and solemn declaration of his desire to become the slave of Isaac H. Stanly." He does so in open court. Phillips says that his "request and selection is made freely and voluntarily." The court grants John Phillips his request and declares him Stanly's slave.

PAR Number 21286106

State: North Carolina Year: 1861
Location: Guilford Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-eight-year-old free black Jenetta Wright makes a "public declaration" to become the slave of John Clark. She is making her request "without any fear or compulsion from any one." The court grants Jenetta's request and declares her John Clark's slave.

PAR Number 21484847

State: Tennessee Year: 1848
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Hannah Dodds, a free woman of color, seeks permission to remain in Shelby County, Tennessee. She states that she "was liberated by one James Dodds in Shelby County" and that "she has resided in said county ever since." Dodds points out that "she wishes to reside in said state because she was born and reared in a slave state-- all her relatives and associations are here." She notes that "if she is driven from this state she will be compelled to settle in some of the free states." Feeling "that in no portion of our Government is the condition of the free colored race more deplorable than in the free states," Dodds submits that "she would prefer to return to bondage under a kind master than to reside in a free state." She "prays your Worships to permit her to remain in this state under the provisions of the several acts of the General Assembly."

PAR Number 21485839

State: Tennessee Year: 1858
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah Cheatham, a free woman of color, "represents unto your Honor that she desires to go into slavery." Eighteen-year-old Cheatham declares that she has chosen a resident of Williamson County "to be her Owner." She prays "your Honor to grant this petition."

PAR Number 21486104

State: Tennessee Year: 1861
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: James Johnson, a free man of color, "desires to go into slavery and choose an owner and chooses hereby as such owner the said Edward H West." Johnson recounts that West "set your petitioners mother one Cynthia free after which your petitioner was born free." Believing that said emancipation "was legally begun & perfected in the County court of said county," the petitioner asks that publication of his request "be made, that process issue and this proceeding be perfected as required by Law."

PAR Number 21585808

State: Texas Year: 1858
Location: San Augustine Location Type: County

Abstract: Daniel, "a free person of African descent" facing expulsion from the state of Texas and "compelled therefore to choose between banishment and Slavery," asks to become the slave of B. M. Watson, a man he conceives "in every way fit to receive this gift of my freedom." Daniel explains that he has "compared as well as I could the probable condition of a free negro in any of the American States, with his condition in a State of Slavery- the result of that comparison has led me to prefer the latter alternative." He attests that his "condition has not been in any respect better, in many matters it has been worse" than the slaves with whom he lives and works. He asserts that "they for the most part have kind and indulgent masters, who take care of them in old age & in sickness ... and allow them to make crops for themselves; Of all these advantages I am deprived ... The object of life is happiness - Freedom is only useful when it tends to secure it. For my part I can only say that it has great terror for me as it robs me of my family & forces me from the spot to which I am so much attached If I only share the lot of other slaves around me I feel that I not only have not relinquished, but have gained an advantage by changing my condition." He adds that he does not wish "to bring ruin & misery to myself by going to the Northern states, where the laboring classes are equally Indigent & infinately more selfish & exclusive than the slaves here- I should be starved out or driven off to the Canadas."

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