Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10382602

State: Delaware Year: 1826
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: The Wilmington Society of Friends, at their monthly meeting, urge the legislature to immediately abolish slavery. Arguing that slavery is evil, unjust, and oppressive, the petitioners put forth that "we believe it to be a truth, that in oppression, cruel suffering, and degradation, negro Slavery remains without a parallel in the known world."

PAR Number 11000010

State: Mississippi

Abstract: Samuel Osborne asks for emancipation of an infant "whom he verily believes to be the issue of white parents" and by fraud has been brought into state and sold as a slave. He states that he recently purchased the child and wants to raise her as his own, educate her, and change her name from Margaret to Indiana Osborne.

PAR Number 11081901

State: Mississippi Year: 1819
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: David Lawson, as executor of the will of Payton Sterne, seeks to emancipate three children--Washington, Walter, and Adeline--whose mother was "a colored woman called Milly." Lawson had emancipated Milly, and Sterne, who recently died, provided for the freedom of her children in his will. In his will, a related document attached to the petition, Sterne asked of his executors that "the best of care may be taken in educating" the children with the balance of his property after all debts are paid, and "if any remains after their education to divide it equally between" them.

PAR Number 11082302

State: Mississippi Year: 1823
Location: Wilkinson Location Type: County

Abstract: The heirs and executors of deceased slaveholder Patrick Foley ask for an act of emancipation for two slaves in Foley's estate: Sall and John. In his will Foley expressed his desire to "manumit and set free from slavery" these two slaves. Sall, they explain is about fifty years old and John, Foley hoped, would be bound to a trade and sent to Ohio.

PAR Number 11085926

State: Mississippi Year: 1859
Location: Carroll Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Boone, guardian of the minor Sallie Knox, sold a slave belonging to his ward for $1,750 in the state of Alabama. He was motivated to do so because the slave had a wife and refused to move to Mississippi with him. Furthermore, Boone claims, the slave was of bad character, could read and write, and used his skills to forge and order and procure the money. Having been informed that the sale was illegal because of his failure to seek permission from the Carroll County Court, Boone asks the legislature to pass an act to confirm and ratify the sale.

PAR Number 11186701

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

Abstract: In an eloquent plea to the "Honorable Senate and House of Representatives," eighty two freedmen of Pike County ask that the state remove all legal restrictions "on account of race or color." They do not seek "social equality," they inform the legislative body, but rather the obligations of citizenship. Recalling their plight under slavery, where they stood in a "Kind of medium between that of men and that of brutes so far as any personal rights or privileges were concerned," they remind the legislative body that "where the State demands obligations and duties at the hand of all her citizens without distinction, the correlative rights and privileges of all those citizens should be conceded without distinction." "The injustice and incongruity of requiring of all citizens the Equal payment of taxes for the support of the Government," they argue, while "a large class of those citizens are debarred from all participation or voice in the Government" cannot be "defended as an abstract proposition." "We will not insult the intelligence of your Honorable Body," they add, "by offering proofs of our loyalty as a class. The history of the 200000 soldiers of African descent during the last four years is too fresh in the memory of all the people of the State to require more than reference to it." And if "we are not so well prepared intellectually and by Education as a class for the exercise of the Elective franchise, and other duties of citizens, as others," they conclude, "let the deadly nightmare of legal prohibition that so long oppressed our race, be our apology."

PAR Number 11280906

State: North Carolina Year: 1809
Location: Randolph Location Type: County

Abstract: William Bell, an executor of the late Richard Sayrs, declares that his testator's will "directed that a Molattoe boy of the name of George, then under age should be emancipated & set free." Bell reports that the said George "has lived in the family of your petitioner for a number of years & has been taught to read & Wright & has also learned the Black Smith trade." Attesting that George is "of good Moral Charactor and honoust principles," the petitioner prays "your Honourable body to pass a Law to emancipate the Said boy George by the name of George Sayrs."

PAR Number 11283405

State: North Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Guilford Location Type: County

Abstract: Considering it the duty of government to permit the education of every class of citizen, the Quakers petition the "General Assembly to repeal all those laws, enacted by preceding Legislatures of this State, against the literary instruction of Slaves, making it a finable offence for any to be found teaching them to read." They also request the repeal of a recently enacted law that prohibits "all coloured persons in this State, bond or free, upon the penalty of corporal punishment, from public preaching, exhorting, &c. in their Respective Congregations of Societies." The Quakers purport that if said laws are not repealed "the difficulties and danger they were intended to prevent" will increase.

PAR Number 11284206

State: North Carolina Year: 1842
Location: Wake Location Type: County

Abstract: Commissioners in Raleigh address the "many defects [that] exist in the statute laws of the State relating to slaves and free persons of colour" and propose amendments that will better promote "the peace of the community .. and the happiness of slaves." They declare that "it is well known that for years past a band of unscrupulous fanatics ... have been using every exertion to produce discontent and ultimately to engender rebellion amongst the slaves of the South." They cite that the statutes passed in 1830 and 1831 "forbidding slaves to teach each other, and prohibiting their being taught by white persons, to read or write, figure excepted -- forbidding slaves to go at large as freemen or to preach or exhort in public -- requiring emancipated slaves to leave the state within ninety days after their emancipation -- forbidding the migration of free negroes into this state -- and prohibiting their intermarriage with slaves" were designed not only "to protect the value of slaves as property, but to preserve that due subordination amongst them, and the free negroes which was likely to be disturbed by occurrences in other sections of the country and by the machinations of the reckless spirit of Abolitionism which was springing up in the north." Not presuming to dictate how the laws might be changed, the petitioners "beg that such provisions may be made as will protect the community in which they live from the many evils” that will occur if the existing statutes, which are easily bypassed or laxly enforced, are not amended.

PAR Number 11285501

State: North Carolina Year: 1855

Abstract: Citizens of North Carolina ask for "the consideration of your honorable body” to four propositions: “That it behooves us as a Christian people to establish the institution of matrimony among our slaves, with all its legal obligations and guarantees as to its duration between the parties; That under no circumstance should masters be permitted to disregard these natural and sacred ties of relationship among their slaves, or between slaves belonging to different masters; and that the parental relation be acknowledged and protected by law; and that the separation of parents from their young children, say of twelve years and under, be strictly forbidden, under heavy pains and penalties; That the laws which prohibit the instruction of slaves and free colored persons, by teaching them to read the Bible and other good books be repealed."

PAR Number 11300005

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

Abstract: Forty-three wharf owners and merchants in Charleston ask the legislature to take action to halt the theft of cotton bales. They assert that “slaves and free persons of Colour, who being able to write, readily manufacture tickets in the name of the owner or employer or any other person, and frequently in the name of a fictitious person” and then sell said cotton and other goods to unscrupulous shopkeepers. They further lament that said trafficking is very difficult to stop and even when suspects are brought in it is difficult to prosecute as the bales have already been shipped out. The petitioners “confidently believe that in the article of Cotton alone, not less than Five Hundred Bales are purchased in illicit traffic by the Shops in Charleston from Slave and free persons of color.” They therefore ask for stricter laws and better enforcement.

PAR Number 11382008

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

Abstract: Twenty-six Edisto Island residents react "with alarm" to "the number of free negroes & people of Colour who have emigrated into the State," thus "increasing thereby an existing evil." The petitioners put forth some "immediate measures" for consideration and adoption. They propose that "all Negroes, bond or free" be banished "from the limits of this State"; that persons be prohibited "from emancipating his, her, or their Slave or Slaves upon any pretence whatever"; that the establishment of churches "for the exclusive worship of negroes and coloured people" be banned; that curtailing the travel of "free negroes and coloured people, visiting the Eastern States for ordination, or other religious purposes and returning" is necessary in order to control this "grievous evil," as the newly ordained ministers "return to this State to disseminate sentiments highly inimical to the best interests of this Country"; and that the "suffering [of] Schools for negroes" be prohibited and the leaders of said enterprises "immediately be arrested & Banished from this State."

PAR Number 11382019

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

Abstract: One hundred and five Charleston residents express that they "have seen with anxious concern the number of Free negroes and coloured people, who have emigrated into this State from various quarters" and that they "have every reason to apprehend a daily increase of this alarming evil." The petitioners therefore propose certain restrictions be placed on the South Carolina free black and slave populations. They suggest a ban on "all free negroes and coloured people from migrating into this State"; that the owners be barred from emancipating their slaves unless "such emancipated slave or slaves shall within twelve months after such emancipation leave the State"; that churches be prevented from offering "exclusive worship of negroes and coloured people"; that free people of color who leave the state "shall be prohibited by Law, from ever returning"; and that the practice of "suffering schools or assemblages of negroes slaves to be taught reading and writing" be thoroughly denounced, as many of the school masters and teachers are "amply furnished with pecuniary means by abolitionist societies."

PAR Number 11382808

State: South Carolina Year: 1828
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Joseph Johnson, Intendant of the Charleston City Council, raises many concerns to the members of the House of Representatives, one such concern being "the number of Schools publickly kept for the instruction of persons of Colour in reading and writing." Johnson is of the opinion that instruction is "injurious to the Community." He purports that "to be able to read and to write is certainly not necessary to the performance of those duties which are usually required of our Slaves and on the contrary is incompatible with the public safety." Johnson further argues that "the knowledge of the art of writing will enable persons of this class to carry on illicit traffic, to communicate privately among themselves and to evade those regulations that are intended to prevent confederations among them," whereby it will be "impossible to distinguish between the free and the slave of our coloured population." He therefore knows "of no remedy so effectual and at the same time so little liable to objection as the absolute prohibition of all Schools for the instruction of Coloured persons." In addition, Johnson asks that the practice of owners and others in hiring slaves and free persons of color in their stores and shops be halted. In addition to denying employment to the white population, this situation introduces "the Coloured population and especially slaves into situations which are inconsistent with their Condition." The petitioner suggests "that the system of slavery is so interwoven with the constitution of our Society that even if our interests permitted it would be impossible to eradicate it." He believes, therefore, that "it becomes highly important that the regulations necessary for maintaining this state of things in peace and security should be permanently established and regularly maintained."

PAR Number 11382809

State: South Carolina Year: 1828
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Joseph Johnson, Intendant of the Charleston City Council, raises many concerns to the members of the Senate, one such concern being "the number of Schools publickly kept for the instruction of persons of Colour in reading and writing." Johnson is of the opinion that instruction is "injurious to the Community." He purports that "to be able to read and to write is certainly not necessary to the performance of those duties which are usually required of our Slaves, and on the contrary is incompatible with the public safety." Johnson further argues that "the knowledge of the art of writing will enable persons of this class to carry on illicit traffic, to communicate privately among themselves and to evade those regulations that are intended to prevent confederations among them," whereby it will be "impossible to distinguish between the free and the slave of our coloured population." He therefore knows "of no remedy so effectual and at the same time so little liable to objection as the absolute prohibition of all shools for the instruction of coloured persons." In addition, Johnson asks that the practice of owners and others in hiring slaves and free persons of color in their stores and shops be halted. In addition to denying employment to the white population, this situation introduces "the coloured population and especially slaves, into situations which are inconsistent with their condition." The petitioner suggests "that the system of Slavery is so interwoven with the constitution of our Society that even if our interests permitted it would be impossible to eradicate it." He believes, therefore, that "it becomes highly important that the regulations necessary for maintaining this State of things in peace and security should be permanently established and regularly maintained."

PAR Number 11383406

State: South Carolina Year: 1835
Location: Abbeville Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Fifty-three residents of Abbeville District seek legislation to prevent the activities of several Sunday schools "wherein a Number of Negroes are Instructed to read," for "the purpose of enabling them to read the Scriptures for themselves." The petitioners argue that such practices are unnecessary "as almost every Owner of Slaves in this country allows them the liberty of attending preaching by those who are much abler to instruct them than they would be to instruct themselves." They further fear that slaves learning to read "places them in a Situation (Ultimately) to Sap the foundation of the peace and tranquillity of this & all the Slave holding States, as they will learn to write (in Spite of all the efforts of those who oppose them) and by that means convey to each other throughout the different States all their plots and designs and place us (or our posterity) Under all the horrors of a General Insurrection." They therefore pray that a law be passed "as will entirely prohibit every thing of the kind."

PAR Number 11383407

State: South Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: M. H. DeLeon, Intendant of the Town Council of Columbia, states that residents at a recent meeting asked for the passage of an ordinance that would prevent anyone from teaching slaves to read or write "under any pretext whatever." The Council concluded that it did not have the authority to pass such a law, but ordered DeLeon "to draft a Petition to the Legislature praying them to Repeal the present Law." The petitioner therefore asks the Legislature "to enact such a one, as by its provisions would effectually put a stop to a practice which if continued must eventuate in the destruction of that portion of our property, and ultimately end in discord."

PAR Number 11383503

State: South Carolina Year: 1835
Location: Chester Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: One hundred twenty-three citizens of Chester District seek the repeal of an 1834 law preventing the practice of teaching slaves to read the scriptures and other religious books. The petitioners argue that "in many places this law could not be enforced"; that "this law is also believed by many ... to invade the rights of conscience"; and that this law cannot be defended because "the ability to read exists on probably every plantation in the State; and it is utterly impossible for even the masters to prevent this -- as is apparent from the cases in which servants learn to write by stealth, although all masters are very watchful to prevent this." The petitioners aver that the state has less to fear from intelligent than ignorant slaves; the latter might become followers "of every Nat Turner who might chance to pass along." They further surmise that "if Imperial Rome could manage even a classic slavery, and a large part of their slaves also the best trained soldiers in the world, the Romans excepted, does chivalrous South Carolina quail before gangs of cowardly Africans with a Bible in their hands? Let it not be said!!" The petitioners therefore believe "that it would be both politic and prudent to repeal said law."

PAR Number 11383804

State: South Carolina Year: 1838
Location: Chester Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Thirty-six citizens of Chester District seek the repeal of an 1834 law preventing the practice of teaching slaves to read the scriptures and other religious books. The petitioners argue that "in very many places sd. law could not be enforced"; that "multitudes of citizens ... believe the law in question to invade the rights of conscience"; and that this law cannot be defended because "the ability to read which the Legislature seems to dread, now exists in probably every plantation in the State, yea, hundreds of slaves can now read all over the state & it is utterly impossible even for the masters to prevent this -- as is apparent from the cases where negros learn to write by stealth, altho the master is very watchful to prevent this." The petitioners aver that the state has less to fear from intelligent than ignorant slaves; the latter condition “make our servants the fit dupes of every Nat Turner who might chance to pass along." They further surmise that "if Imperial Rome could manage even a classic slavery, & their slaves ... the best trained soldiers in the world, the Romans excepted, does chivalrous South Carolina quail before gangs of cowardly Africans with a Bible in their hands? Let it not be said!!" The petitioners therefore “hope your Hon. body will duly weigh our petition & pass a repeal for relief.”

PAR Number 11383807

State: South Carolina Year: 1838
Location: Abbeville Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Sixty-one citizens of Abbeville District seek the repeal of an 1834 law forbidding people to teach slaves to read. They request "the liberty, if we think proper, to teach our Servants to read, with so much fluency and Correctness, that they will be able to peruse the word of God and other religious books with pleasure and profit to their Souls." The petitioners purport that the law forbidding slaves to read is an "infringement of the right of conscience"; in addition, the law is unconstitutional as it negates the Eighth Section of the South Carolina Constitution establishing freedom of religion. They declare that "by this article all mankind within the limits of the State, are allowed the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship,” and since slaves are a part of mankind, they have immortal souls and the right to exercise religious worship. The petitioners lastly assert that servants who live in religious families and have been taught to read and understand the word of God are "much more trusty in every respect" than those who did not know nor understand the Bible.

PAR Number 11385003

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

Abstract: Rev. R. Fuller, a loyal citizen of South Carolina, requests permission to teach the slaves on his plantation how to read. Fuller avows that "he has ever yielded allegiance" to the laws of the state but he admits that he "owes a higher & paramount allegiance to the laws of God, and these laws require him to instruct his slaves so that they may be able to read the Scriptures." The petitioner therefore prays that "he may have permission privately & on his plantation to give instruction to his slaves so that they may be able to read the word of God."

PAR Number 11385004

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

Abstract: Rev. R. Fuller, a loyal citizen of South Carolina, requests permission to teach the slaves on his plantation how to read. Fuller avows that "he has ever yielded allegiance" to the laws of the state but he admits that he "owes a higher & paramount allegiance to the laws of God, and these laws require him to instruct his slaves so that they may be able to read the Scriptures." The petitioner therefore prays that "he may have permission privately & on his plantation to give instruction to his slaves so that they may be able to read the word of God."

PAR Number 11385005

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

Abstract: Rev. R. Fuller, a loyal citizen of South Carolina, requests permission to teach the slaves on his plantation how to read. Fuller avows that "he has ever yielded allegiance" to the laws of the state but he admits that he "owes a higher & paramount allegiance to the laws of God, and these laws require him to instruct his slaves so that they may be able to read the Scriptures." The petitioner therefore prays that "he may have permission privately & on his plantation to give instruction to his slaves so that they may be able to read the word of God."

PAR Number 11480601

State: Tennessee Year: 1806

Abstract: Gideon Blackburn represents that "divine providence has blessed a Negro man named Jack now the property of your petitioner with uncommon talents a philanthropic disposition and a serious mind" and that said Jack "hath acquired a tolerably good education by which he may be qualifyed in moralizing and Christianizing his unfortunate black brethren." Being "desirous that he may be liberated from slavery," Blackburn prays "that a law be passed for his emancipation and that he may in future be Known by the name of John Gloucester."

PAR Number 11481502

State: Tennessee Year: 1815

Abstract: Twenty-three petitioners argue that slave owners should be permitted to free their slaves on "terms which will not involve them, nor their estates, for their maintenance." They further propose the propriety of passing a law that would declare that "all the descendants of slaves, which may be born after the passing of the law, shall be free at some age which your honourable body ... may agree upon." The petitioners also purport the importance of teaching said term slaves "some occupation by which they may get an honest living; and teach them at least to read the holy scriptures; & give them reasonable previlege of attending meetings for divine worship."

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