Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11682302

State: Virginia Year: 1823
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Ninety-one "persons of colour residing in the City of Richmond" represent that "it has been the misfortune of your petitioners to be excluded from the churches, meeting Houses and other places of public devotion which are used by white persons." They point out that, with "no appropriate places being assigned for them," they have resorted to meeting in private Houses, "where they are much crowded and where a portion of their Brethren are unable to hear or to partake of the worship which is going on." The petitioners therefore pray that "your honorable body will pass a law authorising them to cause to be erected within this city, a House of public worship which may be called the Baptist African Church." Aware of the restrictions involved in such a venture, they "most chearfully ... submit" to the mayor's right to approve or reject their choice of any teacher. The petitioners further acknowledge that they cannot "reasonably expect to hold night meetings or assemblages for Baptizing but with the consent of that officer."

PAR Number 11683313

State: Virginia Year: 1833
Location: Amherst Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred thirty-five Amherst County residents attest that Archy Higginbotham, a free man of color, "is a Person of good character, honest deportment, and without exception in his behaviour, he is regarded by all who know him as a respectable worthy man." The petitioners point out that Thomas Higginbotham emancipated the said Archy, also known by the name Archy Cary. Noting that he has a wife and children, they further "regard it as a hardship that he should be compeled to leave the state of Virginia.” The petitioners therefore pray "your Honourable Body to permit by law the said Archy to remain in the State of Virginia and if that cannot be done to permit him to remain in the County of Amherst -- or if that should be deemed unwise to allow him a reasonable time to dispose of his Estate, collect the proceeds & prepare for removal which would require some thing like five years."

PAR Number 11683519

State: Virginia Year: 1835
Location: Prince William Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1834, deputy sheriff Basil Brawner sold William Hyden, who had been jailed as a runaway slave, to one Robert Lipscomb acting as the agent of an unnamed slave trader. When the unnamed trader finally came to town to take a look at Hdyden, he refused to pay. Brawner then asked Colonel James Fewell, a slave trader on his way to Fredericksburg and Richmond, to sell Hyden. Fewell offered Hyden for sale in both locations but to no avail, all interested buyers refusing "to purchase him at any price, on account of his colour all alledging that he was too white." Hyden was returned to Brawner, who later tried to sell him on a court day in Brentsville, but again the several traders present refused "to make any offer for him, alledging that his colour was too light and that he could by reason thereof too easily escape from slavery and pass himself for a free man." As it happened, Hyden did escape, and Brawner now seeks compensation for the "expense that arose from aprehension, confinement, advertising &c." Robert Lipscomb is unable to pay the $452 he bid for Hyden, Brawner argues, and former sheriff Michael Cleary "now stands charged on the books of the Auditor of Public accounts with a large sum of Money which your petitioner will be compelled to pay unless your Honorable body will release him from it, although he has not received nor has he any hope of receiving one cent of the same." Several related documents offer the opinions of individuals who express their conviction that, from what they had learned of Hyden's background and from what they saw and heard of him, he was a native of New York, born of a white woman, and an educated man.

PAR Number 11683832

State: Virginia Year: 1838
Location: Brooke Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixteen residents of Brooke County represent that "Rev. R. M. White ( Presbyterian Minister) has brought his family (late of Harford Co Md) to this place" and that "the nurse of his wife, -- a free molatto Woman, wishes to accompany them -- the above mentioned woman is about 58 years of age -- has a tolerable education -- is a worthy member of the church, -- sustains an unblemished character." They therefore pray "that your honorable body will make it lawful for her to reside with her former mistress."

PAR Number 11683834

State: Virginia Year: 1838
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixteen free men of color complain that, by "the prohibitory statutes of Virginia," they "have been heretofore compelled to send their children abroad for instruction." Noting that "many of them are possessed of property, real as well as person, & have therefore an abiding interest in preserving the peace and good order of the community," they therefore "humbly beg that an Act may be passed, authorizing a school in the Corporation of Fredericksburg, for the instruction of the free people of color resident therein."

PAR Number 11685603

State: Virginia Year: 1856
Location: Hancock Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred three residents of Hancock County ask that "the Laws of Virginia may be modified” in order “to protect the parental relation [of slaves], forbidding the separation of parents and young children, at the will of any man or set of men, under criminal penalties”; to “recognise and secure the marital relation to colored persons; forbidding the disregard of the sacred relation of husband and wife by any man amongst his own slaves, and protecting the same between slaves of different families”; and “to allow persons so disposed to teach persons of color to read, so as to assist their moral and mental elevation."

PAR Number 20378301

State: Delaware Year: 1783
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: "The Petition of Negro Jim, the indented Servant Lad of a certain Alexander Steel," free black Jim begins his petition, "Humbly Sheweth" that he is "the son of a Free Negro woman named Hannah, late of New Castle County afsd. deced." He states that in 1770 his grandfather Hector, "a Free Negro," consented to his indenture to Steele for nearly sixteen years. Steele promised to furnish Jim "with all the necessaries of Life during the said Term to learn him to read and write & at the Expiration thereof, to give him two Suits of Apparel." Steele has hired out Jim several times. Jim and Thomas Moore, to whom Jim is currently hired, contend that Steele has failed "to perform his part of the Covenants in the afsd. Indentures, to wit to have him taught to read & write." Jim asks the court to summon Steele to answer his charges.

PAR Number 20482304

State: District of Columbia Year: 1823
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Koscuiszko Armstrong, a minor petitioning through his father and next friend, John Armstrong, seeks to settle a dispute regarding the estate of Thade [Thaddius] Koscuiszko. Koscuiszko, a Polish officer who had been "in the service of the United States in the war of their Revolution" executed a Last Will and Testament and placed "a large fund in the hands of Thomas Jefferson Esquire" in 1798. In 1806, while Koscuiszko was in Paris, he "executed a certain instrument of writing being in the nature & of the effect of a last will or writing testamentary" in which he bequeathed $3704 to Koscuiszko Armstrong out of the funds held by Jefferson. Koscuiszko died in 1817, Jefferson declined execution of the estate, and Benjamin L. Lear became its administrator, thus coming into the possession of a sum "far exceeding" $10,000. Lear refuses to turn over the $3704 bequeathed to Armstrong, who charges that Lear has been "combining and confederating" with a Major Estko of Russia and a Monsieur Zeltner, who now resides in Switzerland and who "pretend" that Koscuiszko did not write the testamentary. Armstrong asks that Lear be compelled to reveal the amount of Koscuiszko's money in his possession, and to turn over the $3704, plus interest. A copy of Koscuiszko's 1798 will, included with the petition, states "I hereby authorise my friend Thomas Jefferson to employ the whole thereof in purchasing negroes, from among his own or any others, and giving them liberty in my name, in giving them an education in trades or otherwise and in having them instructed for their new condition in the duties of morality which may make them good neighbours good fathers or moders husbands or wives and in their duties as citizens teaching them to be defenders of their liberty and Country and of the good order of society and in whatsoever may make them happy and useful."

PAR Number 20485108

State: District of Columbia Year: 1851
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert M. T. Hunter states that Benjamin Coghill died in 1843, shortly after writing his last will and testament. The will empowered Hunter as a trustee and charged him with emancipating two slave children, Isaiah and Rachel Anne as well as their mother, Rachel. The will also set aside $1,000 to be applied to the care, benefit, and education of the two emancipated children. Hunter shows that he moved the two children and their mother to Washington, but that it is now difficult for him to act as trustee from the state of Virginia. He asks the court to discharge him from the office and to appoint a suitable person as his substitute.

PAR Number 20485109

State: District of Columbia Year: 1851
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Rachel Brooks, a free person of color, is the mother of two children, Rachel Ann and Isaiah, recently emancipated by the will of Benjamin Coghill. Robert M. T. Hunter has been acting as trustee for her children. However, he is unable to continue his duties since the Brooks family has moved to the District of Columbia. Brooks asks the court to discharge Hunter as trustee and to appoint Dr. Alexander Garnett in his place.

PAR Number 20485601

State: District of Columbia Year: 1856
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Seventeen-year-old Robert Nelson, a free person of color, petitions the court by his next friend, Edward Woodland, a free person of color. Nelson states that he is illegally held in custody as an apprentice by Alfred Jones, a free man of color. He asserts that the indenture on which Jones bases his claim is defective, as it was never recorded in the orphans court in the specified amount of time. The petitioner further complains that Jones has treated him "with harshness and cruelty, often beating and cuffing him in the most cruel and improper manner." Nelson states that Jones has failed to provide proper food, clothing, or education, and has never taught him any trade. Nelson seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20486006

State: District of Columbia Year: 1860
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Curry, a woman of color, states that her daughter, Catharine, was indentured as an apprentice at the age of six to William Ford, a man of color, "to learn cooking, plain sewing house work and habits of industry," as well as reading and writing. Curry asserts that the purpose of indenturing her daughter to Ford was that she would have the "benefit and advantage of the care and nurture of Susan Ford the wife of the said William Ford." The petitioner informs the court that Susan Ford has since died and that William Ford "is a man of violent & immoral disposition & habits." Curry argues that Ford never executed the indenture papers, and therefore the indenture is null and void. She seeks a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of her daughter, Catharine.

PAR Number 20684309

State: Georgia Year: 1843
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: In his last will and testament, Edward Quinn, deceased, divided his estate, except for his slaves, between his wife, Jane Quinn, now Jane Clark, several relatives residing in Ireland, and the Roman Catholic Church in Charleston. Quinn also specified that his slaves "may be kept together by my executors and that they may be clothed and supported out of my entire assets and effects without being hired for the space of one year from my decease and that in the meantime, my said executors do make application to the Legislature of the State of Georgia, to free them, I not having it in my power from the nature of the law now in force to do so myself and in the event of the same Legislature refusing to free or emancipate them" they should be moved to some place where they can "enjoy their freedom." Jane Clark states that the clauses of the will which grant property to foreigners are contrary to a law prohibiting foreigners from owning property in Georgia. She further avers that "the emancipation of the slaves therein mentioned, is contrary to express Statutes of Said State, against her well established and long recognised public policy and inimical to her institutions and therefore null and void in law and equity." Clark argues that she is, therefore, the only legal heir to Quinn's estate. She has appealed to his administrator, James Harper, on several occasions to deliver the slaves into her possession; however, he has refused. For a time, Harper hired out the slaves. He now argues that they have "departed from his custody & possession." Clark believes that the slaves were in Savannah under the care of Harper's brother. She asserts that Harper had "ample time & means to have recovered them" and she holds him responsible for their loss. Clark asks the court to declare the clauses of the will regarding foreigners and the emancipation of the slaves null and void. She requests that Harper be ordered to give her the slaves and any money earned by their hire.

PAR Number 20784405

State: Kentucky Year: 1844
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Charles Saunders, a free man of color, states that he was able to purchase his wife Matilda, a slave, from slave trader David Ross, with the financial assistance of Charles Kastenbine. The price agreed upon between Saunders and Ross was $600. Saunders claims that he arranged to make monthly payments to Kastenbine on said purchase. Matilda has since given birth to a boy, and Charles Kastenbine has died. The heirs and administrators of Kastenbine now claim that Saunders's payments were to hire Matilda and not payments towards her purchase. Saunders asks that the defendants be restrained “from taking seizing or in anywise disturbing said slaves or hindering him your orator in & from the quiet & peaceable possession & use of the said woman Matilda and her child George Saunders till the final trial of this suit” and that the Kastenbine heirs be prevented from removing his wife and child to places unknown.

PAR Number 20882810

State: Louisiana Year: 1828
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Pelagie Dauphin, a free woman of color, presents to the court that she has purchased for emancipation her eleven-year-old nephew named Prosper and her niece named Josephine, also eleven years of age. She purchased Prosper in 1817 from Marie Louise Bouligny, a widow, and she has recently purchased Josephine from Joseph Enoul Duguay Livaudais. The express condition of sale for both children was that she would emancipate them as soon as the laws of the state would permit. Desirous to comply with the "conditions of enfranchisement," she asks the court to submit her petition and supporting documents to the police jury of the parish, so that she may "immediately proceed to the measures" prescribed by law for the emancipation of her two relatives.

PAR Number 20882916

State: Louisiana Year: 1829
Location: West Feliciana Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Thomas Purnell presents to the court that he is the owner of three "young slaves," whom he wishes to emancipate. The slaves are seven-year-old Matilda, five-year-old John, and eighteen-month-old Edward. He declares that he wishes to emancipate the children because their mother is free. He claims to be desirous to educate those "very bright light mulatoes or quatroons" and to give them a trade and knowledge for their bettering and that of society. He therefore asks the court to submit his petition for the "advice and consent" of the police jury. Related documents reveal that, although Purnell used due process of law in 1829 to emancipate Mary and her three children, the latter were still Purnell's slaves in 1842. That year, Purnell required permission for Mary and the children, then seven in number, to travel to the state of Ohio for the purpose of becoming free.

PAR Number 20883128

State: Louisiana Year: 1831
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Constance des Capucins, a free woman of color and a woman of some means and property, presents to the police jury that she has recently purchased her two-year-old niece named Juliette, from a free woman of color named Bellefine Bardoule, under the condition "sine qua non" that she would immediately proceed to the formalities required by law for emancipation. She explains that she is "possessed of some property" and intends not only to emancipate Juliette but to use her respectable means to educate her. She asks the police jury to authorize her to proceed with the manumission of her niece.

PAR Number 20883468

State: Louisiana Year: 1834
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Francisco Sola presents to the police jury that he is the owner of a four-year-old male slave named Paul, whom he wishes to emancipate in recognition of the services rendered to him by the young boy's mother. Sola further presents that he is "disposed to give security" that the boy will be "properly educated and enabled to gain a livelihood," and he will be "taught the respect he owes to white people." Sola therefore asks the police jury to authorize him to emancipate Paul without the latter having to leave the state.

PAR Number 20883476

State: Louisiana Year: 1834
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Toussaint Guillaume, a free man of color, presents to the court that he is the owner of his two children, Marie Catherine and Jean François, the latter also known as François George. He further presents that he wishes to emancipate them so as to be "able to give them some education." He asks the court to order that the "proper notices" be posted up "as the law directs," so that he may emancipate his two children after having obtained "leave" from the police jury.

PAR Number 20883564

State: Louisiana Year: 1835
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Myrtille Courcelle presents to the police jury that he is the "true and legitimate owner" of a four-and-a-half-year-old orphan boy named Zach or Alexandre or Alexandre Smith. He further presents that he intends to give Zach "some education" and to assure "unto him the advantages of a free man of colour," and that, for that purpose, he wishes to emancipate him. He therefore asks the police jury to order Zach's emancipation. We learn from a related document in the French language that Myrtille Courcelle was a free man of color and that he purchased Zach and his mother, Eugénie or Jenny, from James Huie of Rowan County, North Carolina in 1831.

PAR Number 20885037

State: Louisiana Year: 1850
Location: Iberville Location Type: Parish

Abstract: William Shea seeks the “interdiction” of a free woman of color from caring for her children and the appointment of a tutor for the children. William Shea represents that he has been appointed administrator of the “considerable” estate of a free man of color named Sam Shea. Sam lived in open concubinage with a free woman of color named Caroline Walker, and the couple had three children. Laura, the oldest child, is now eight years of age, Estelle is four, and William is two. Sam has recently died with no other direct or “collateral” heirs. According to William Shea, it was Sam’s intention to marry Caroline and recognize the children. However, he was prevented from doing so by his illness and the fact that Caroline has become insane and incapable of “contracting a marriage.” William Shea contends that, although the children are “legally and justly” entitled to their father’s succession, they have no one to take care of them, educate them, and administer their property, their mother being in no condition to do so. William Shea therefore prays for an order directing that Caroline Walker be “interdicted” in her role as mother. He seeks the appointment of a “curator” to take charge of Caroline, and the appointment of a tutor and an “under tutor” for the children.

PAR Number 20885039

State: Louisiana Year: 1850
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: The State of Louisiana, represented by Attorney General Isaac Johnson, seeks to nullify the 1838 will of the recently deceased John McDonogh. In his will, McDonogh directed that the bulk of his very considerable estate be bequeathed to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Inhabitants of the Cities of New Orleans and Baltimore. The property was to be divided “in equal proportions” between the two cities. Should either of the two cities decline or be unable to accept the legacies, the property would go the state of Louisiana or Maryland, whose legislatures would be entrusted to carry the intent of the will as would seem “most proper” to them. The State of Louisiana contends, however, that such bequest to the cities is illegal on several grounds, and seeks nullification.

PAR Number 20885044

State: Louisiana Year: 1850
Location: West Feliciana Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Ellen Wooten, a free woman of color, prays for payment on a promissory note. In 1846, John C. Morris promised to pay Wooten $2,000 plus 8% interest until the note was paid. Wooten complains that, considering that she "can neither read nor write," she thought and believed that "said note expressed the rate of conventional interest allowed by law." She now contends that Morris "practiced a fraud upon her by inserting the interest of 10 per cent," which is not allowed by law. Morris died before Wooten could collect on the note. By his will, Morris named Rebecca Harrison as his universal legatee. Rebecca has also died leaving her husband, George Harrison, as administrator to her estate. George is charged with distributing Rebecca's estate to the minor heirs. Wooten prays that the court will order George Harrison to pay her $2,000 with interest before he partitions Rebecca Harrison's estate. Related documents reveal that Ellen Wooten was an industrious woman, who kept a tavern, a boarding house, and a hotel; and she owned sixteen slaves.

PAR Number 20885526

State: Louisiana Year: 1855
Location: St. Landry Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Evelina Collins, a free woman of color, claims that her two children, Valentine Azelie and Jean Baptiste Lebray Gonor, are the “duly acknowledged” illegitimate children of the late Julien C. Gonor, with whom she lived as a “concubine” for “a number of years.” Evelina further claims that, by a public notarial act passed on the 26th of April 1855, Julien Gonor gave Valentine Azelie a lot of ground, with “buildings & improvements.” She now charges that one Joseph Hollier, “styling himself” Administrator of the late Gonor’s estate, has caused the said land to be inventoried with the estate and advertised for sale on the 31st of July 1855 for the benefit of the legal heirs. Evelina therefore seeks an order enjoining Joseph Hollier and Ulysse Gaberel, the auctioneer, from proceeding with the sale. She prays that the donation to Valentine Azelie be declared “good, and valid.” She also seeks $250 in damages. Finally, she argues that, should the donation be declared invalid, she is entitled to receive an annual alimony of $400 from the estate so that her children can be instructed in an “art, or trade,” by which they will be able to “earn their own subsistence." Evelina sues not only Joseph Hollier and Ulysse Gaberel but the late Gonor's father, sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, all legal heirs all legal heirs to his estate.

PAR Number 20885649

State: Louisiana Year: 1856
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Adelaide Leclerc seeks to emancipate her five mulatto slaves named Marie Rose, Louise Mila, Jean, Felix, and Marie Eliska. Leclerc represents that all five slaves, ranging in age from six to twenty-one, were born in her family of her slave Louisa. She claims that, “being advanced in years,” she is desirous to set the slaves free to reward their good conduct and services and the services of their mother. She declares that her slaves “have always behaved in a most respectful, honest and praiseworthy manner towards her and others principally white persons.” The slaves are of “sober character” and have never been convicted of any criminal offence. She promises that they will never be a public charge. She pledges to provide “the necessaries of life” for those who are still too young to “gain their living,” and to apprentice them in a trade. She therefore prays that the State of Louisiana be cited to answer her petition and that her slaves be emancipated with permission to remain in the state.

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