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 10382402

State: Delaware Year: 1824
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-six white men petition the legislature for an act of incorporation in order to maintain a school for the children of people of color. They represent that they "have for a number of years been associated for the purpose of affording literary instruction to the children of the African race, and by the benevolence of individuals have been enabled to purchase a small Lot of Land and Building in the Borough of Wilmington for the accommodation of a school." Desiring to "become a body politic in Law capable of holding real Estate," they ask that the "Legislature may grant them an act of Incorporation with such powers as in its wisdom may be deemed proper for the purposes aforesaid."

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 10384710

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

Abstract: Thirty-one memorialists believe "that the education afforded by the African School Society of Wilmington to colored children has been useful not only to them in raising and bettering their own character and condition, but to the community, increasing industry and promoting good order." They further affirm "that a fund of fifteen thousand dollars could be employed for the general benefit in providing good schools for the colored children in this city." They therefore "can see no possible danger from enlarging the limit of property which this Society may hold to that sum and they desire to commend the favor of the General Assembly the annexed petition of the Society."

PAR Number 11082401

State: Mississippi Year: 1824
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Andrew Barland, the son of a white man by a woman of mixed race, was given a good education by his father as well as some property. He states, that, having married into "a respectable white family," he has always been received and treated as a white man. Furthermore, he has served as a juror, given testimony in court, voted, and "enjoyed all the privileges of a free white Citizen." Recently, howerver, a controversy has arisen in a court case when one Joseph Hawk called into question whether Barland, a man of color, should be allowed to testify. Barland writes to the legislature that "his education, his habits, his principles, and his society are all identified with your views." Barland notes that he owns slaves and therefore "can know no other interest than that which is common to the white population." He asks, therefore, that the state "extend to your petitioner such privileges as his countrymen may think him worthy to possess."

PAR Number 11083006

State: Mississippi Year: 1830
Location: Wilkinson Location Type: County

Abstract: As executor of Patrick Foley's estate, Francis Evans asks for the emancipation of "a certain negro Slave named Burwell." In his will Foley had stipulated that, five years after his death, the slave should be freed. Evans is complying with this stipulation.

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 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 11284208

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

Abstract: A three-man committee appointed by the superintendent of the Robeson County schools questions a clause in "common School Law" that "obliges free persons of colour to contribute to this Fund, without the privilege of sending their children to the schools, or in any way whatever, reaping any benefit therefrom." They therefore "pray that the Law shall be modified so as to release the colored population from taxation for educational purposes." Two members of said committee, Absalom Davis and Archibald Smith, suggest that the law be modified to include free persons of color. Purporting that free blacks are "poor, ignorant, and vicious, & Consequently troublesome to their immediate neighbours, and burdensome to the Citizens generally," they maintain that if free blacks "were better instructed would not these evils measurably subside and their condition be greatly bettered?" The third petitioner, Thomas Norment, states that he is opposed to taking "any further steps to educate the Free people of Color."

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 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 11481301

State: Tennessee Year: 1813
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Blackney requests to emancipate Harriette and her three children -- twelve-year-old Frederick, seven-year-old John, and five-year-old Tobias. Blackney relates that "it was the earnest request of your Petitioners father in his lifetime that your petitioner should not treat the said Harriett as a Slave but raise her as one of the family and when she arive at full age to give her, her freedom which is now the wish of your Petitioner more especially as it was the last request of your Petitioners Deceas'd father."

PAR Number 11481702

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

Abstract: One hundred two 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."

PAR Number 11485116

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Three hundred four citizens of Memphis petition "the Legislature of Tennessee to enact a law, authorizing the Mayor and Aldermen of this city to establish and support a system of FREE education on the plan proposed by Dr Merrill in his pamphlet entitled 'the City School’ to be FREE to all the white children of the City over six years of age, without any TAX or FEE whatever, and, without any sectarian influence or teaching."

PAR Number 11485117

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Eleven citizens of Memphis petition "the Legislature of Tennessee to enact a law, authorizing the Mayor and Aldermen of this city to establish and support a system of FREE education on the plan proposed by Dr Merrill in his pamphlet entitled 'the City School’ to be FREE to all the white children of the City over six years of age, without any TAX or FEE whatever, and, without any sectarian influence or teaching."

PAR Number 11485118

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Seventy-seven citizens of Memphis petition "the Legislature of Tennessee to enact a law, authorizing the Mayor and Aldermen of this city to establish and support a system of FREE education on the plan proposed by Dr Merrill in his pamphlet entitled 'the City School’ to be FREE to all the white children of the City over six years of age, without any TAX or FEE whatever, and, without any sectarian influence or teaching."

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 11680201

State: Virginia Year: 1802
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Free black Sally Brown asks that she be allowed to inherit her deceased brother's estate. Both she and her brother, Billy Brown, had been emancipated by Dr. Robert Brown, a Richmond physician, but when her brother died the great portion of the estate given him by his master was "vested by right of escheat in the commonwealth."

PAR Number 11681021

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: On 18 June 1810, the Richmond City Council passed an ordinance that "no negro or mulatto" shall be permitted to use any "Gig chair or other carriage" in the city "except in the Capacity of maid or Servant to some Lady or Gentleman, hiring and riding therein." Christopher MacPherson, a mulatto free person of color who served as clerk during the American Revolution, asks for an exemption from the ordinance. He explains that, as an accountant and bookkeeper, he travels to various parts of the city; moreover, he and his wife are "both advanced in life and occasionally subject to disease -- it has happened and may again happen, that the occasional use of a carriage when they are unable to walk, may be necessary not only for their comfort but their health." The petitioner “submits without a murmur to those Laws of the Commonwealth, which impose disabilities imposed on that class of people to which he belongs and he is not disposed to deny, that there may be persons with respect to whom, the ordinance aforesaid might properly apply, but he humbly conceives that the said ordinance is unjust as it respects himself and family and that it deprives him of rights to which he is intitled under the laws and Constitution of this Commonwealth." He therefore prays that his case be taken into consideration and that “your Honorable Body will be pleased to enact such regulations as will prevent those rights from being infringed.”

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 11681904

State: Virginia Year: 1819
Location: Nottoway Location Type: County

Abstract: About 1801, free-born black Charles Cousins, a "professor of religion," shoemaker, and plantation manager, "took to himself" a slave wife, Aggy, who in 1810 was put up for sale as part of an estate. Cousins arranged for Thomas Howlett, a white man, to purchase Aggy, and about 1812, he repaid Howlett the full purchase price, receiving a "release or bill of sale" and full title of ownership. At age about sixty, Cousins worries that if he were to die before his wife she would not retain her freedom, nor can he now emancipate her and have her remain in the state more than one year. He asks permission to emancipate his wife and for her to remain in Virginia.

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