Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10378601

State: Delaware Year: 1786
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-one petitioners ask the legislature to more rigorously regulate the movements of people of color. They argue that "under the name and Character of Free Negroes many idle and evil-disposed Slaves througout this County stroll thro the same, some with, and some without passes or Certificates." There are also many black "Stragglers and Vagabonds From the Neighbouring Counties" who "come and go in similar Circumstances and under the same character, whereby their legal owners are for a long time deprived of their Service." They further assert that "numbers of Negroes who have been manumitted in other States and Countyes have come into ours, many of whom are likely to become Chargeable." They seek a law prohibiting "the Negroes aforesaid, from travelling Especially from one County into the other without a Written or printed pass or Certificate." The pass, "with the County Seal affixed thereto," should include the bearer's name and place of abode.

PAR Number 10378602

State: Delaware Year: 1786
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-nine petitioners ask the legislature to more rigorously regulate the movements of people of color. They argue that "under the name and Character of Free Negroes, many idle and evil-disposed Slaves througout this County, stroll thro' the same, some with, and some without passes or certificates." There are also many black "Stragglers and Vagabonds, from the neighbouring Counties" who "come and go, in similar Circumstances and under the same character, whereby their legal Owners are for a long time deprived of their Service." They further assert that "numbers of Negroes who have been manumitted in other States and Counties, have come into ours, many of whom are likely to become chargeable." They seek a law prohibiting "the negroes aforesaid, from travelling, especially from one County in to the other, without a written or printed pass or Certificate." The pass, "with the County's Seal affixed thereto," should include the bearer's name and place of abode.

PAR Number 11085915

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

Abstract: Wilson Melton and John Sproles ask that Wesley Moore, "a free man of Yellow Complexion," be exempted from the bill designed to drive free people of color from the state. Moore has lived in Mississippi since 1834, is married to a slave owned by one of the petitioners, and has several children owned by the petitioner. Moore is about forty-six years old. If such exemption cannot be granted, then Moore wishes to enter slavery to be with his family. The petitioners explain that, in anticipation of such eventuality, they will compensate him in the sum of $500, which should be used to pay off his debts, with the residue set aside for his benefit.

PAR Number 11482516

State: Tennessee Year: 1825
Location: White Location Type: County

Abstract: Jabez Mitchell, the jailer of White County, represents that "about nine months ago a negro man Calling himself David was apprehended and committed to the Jail of said County as a runaway." Mitchell states that said David claimed "he was emancipated in Virginia, and that the credentials of his freedom are lost." He further admits that he "is inclined to believe" David as he "always tells one and the same consistent story" and that a diligent search has failed "to find an Owner." The petitioner therefore "prays your Honorable body, either to pass a General Law on the subject, or one providing, specially, for the particular circumstances under which he is placed." Mitchell believes that if David's owner is not found that it would be "unreasonable to retain him in Jail" because "it would operate oppressively and unjustly on him to be confined a lifetime in Jail" and also "because the law has not pointed out any method whereby the Jailor can obtain remuneration for his trouble and expense."

PAR Number 11484501

State: Tennessee Year: 1845
Location: Hamilton Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred sixty-one residents of Hamilton County seek permission for Parlour Washington and his wife, Celicia, to remain in Tennessee. They point out that the Virginia couple was “in the year 1840 ... emancipated, and freed from bondage as slaves." They further attest that the "said Parlour is a good industrious Mechanic, in the arts & trades of Tanner and Currier of leather, and also a good Shoe Boot and harness maker, and his Said mechanical Services [are] much needed and required by the Citizens in the section of Country." Averring that Parlour and Celicia boast a "good name, fame and reputation, as moral religious and upright persons," the petitioners pray "the enactment of a law specially permitting said Parlour Washington & his wife Celicia to remain as legal Citizens of this County."

PAR Number 11678402

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

Abstract: One hundred twelve “diverse freeholders and inhabitants of Hanover County” represent "that many Evils have arisen from a partial Emancipation of slaves." They complain that free people of color act as agents for slaves, distributing and selling property stolen from their masters; in addition, a "Great number" of slaves taken by the British Army "are now passing in this Country as free men." Petitioners request that free persons of color be required to obtain freedom papers signed by a county clerk and that some mode be adopted to prevent free black people from trading with slaves.

PAR Number 11678405

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

Abstract: One hundred six “divers freeholders and inhabitants of the County of Henrico” represent "that many evils has arisen from a partial emancipation of Slaves." They complain that free people of color act as agents for slaves, distributing and selling property stolen from their masters; in addition, a "Great number" of slaves taken by the British Army "are now passing in this Country as free men." Petitioners request that free persons of color be required to obtain freedom papers signed by a county clerk and that some mode be adopted to prevent free black people from trading with slaves.

PAR Number 11679502

State: Virginia Year: 1795
Location: Henrico Location Type: County

Abstract: Nathaniel Wilkinson represents that "a man was indicted for a misdemeanor in forging an instrument of writing importing that a certain runaway negroe was a free man, which fact was proved, and that he had said he had in the same manner emancipated four other negroes." The petitioner prays that amendments be made to the existing acts in order to "more Effectually Secure the Slave property in this Country."

PAR Number 11683416

State: Virginia Year: 1834
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred thirty-nine citizens of Culpeper County inform the court that one Jacob Waynesburg, in the year prior to the filing of their petition, forged freedom papers for two or more slaves, affixing to them the county seal for authenticity. Two of the slaves then committed felonies and made their escape. George W. Jameson, a magistrate, pursued Waynesburg into Maryland, captured him, and brought him back for trial. Jameson incurred substantial expenses. A group of citizens seeks to compensate him for his efforts. A related document reveals that one of the slaves, Oscar Smith, was apprehended in the state of New Jersey, and that the freedom papers he was carrying were determined to be in Waynesburg's handwriting.

PAR Number 11684209

State: Virginia Year: 1842
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-five-year-old Patty Daniel, "a woman of color and ... formerly a slave, the property of Philip E. Vass," represents that she "is desirous to remain where she has lived so long and where she enjoys the society of her husband and her children." Daniel recounts that the court "pronounced the will [of said Vass] valid & the slaves free" a year ago and "that all the slaves included in such decree have since obtained their free-papers & removed out of the state, except your petitioner," who "is a married woman, her husband being a free man of color, named Terry Daniel, by occupation a shoemaker." She therefore prays “that a special act may be passed, granting her permission as a free woman, to reside in this state."

PAR Number 11684402

State: Virginia Year: 1844
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Nathaniel Crenshaw, clerk of the "Half Yearly Meeting of the society of Friends of Virginia," calls attention to "the fact that persons of colour, who, by the Laws of the Commonwealth, are entitled to their freedom, but who have failed to procure, or have lost their free papers," are being "sold, to defray the expenses of their confinement, for an indefinite period of time, and without any restriction, on the part of the purchaser, to prevent their removal from the said County, City, Town or Borough." He further decries that "the children of the females may be held to perpetual servitude in contravention of the benign spirit of those Laws which are virtually intended to protect them in their privileges!" Of the opinion "that the punishment which thus reaches the subject, is greatly disproportionate to the offence committed," the petitioner believes "that the change in the Law, asked for by your Memorialists, will, in no way effect, injuriously, the interest of individuals, but, by conforming more nearly to the beneficent principles established by the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, ... will promote the true dignity and honour of the Commonwealth." He therefore, on behalf of Society of Friends of Virginia, asks "for such modification in the existing Laws as will relieve them from the grievances complained of."

PAR Number 11684403

State: Virginia Year: 1844
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Peter Strange, a fifty-year-old free person of color, represents that "he has lately received his free papers from Mr. Conway Robinson the Administrator of his master Mr. G. H. Bacchus, who emancipated him on account of his good conduct & fidelity as a Servant." Strange laments, however, that "he now stands in geopardy of being sold as a slave again, unless he goes away, (torn from his wife & children) an Exile into some land of strangers." A blacksmith by trade, Strange confesses that "if he were forced into a strange land without money or friends & severed from his wife & children, who are slaves & to whom [he] is sincerely attached he could foresee nothing but suffering & distress and if allowed to remain where he is, his efforts would be unremitting to make himself useful & to maintain his respectability." The petitioner therefore prays that he be allowed to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11684607

State: Virginia Year: 1846
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: Ely Ball and Henry Satterwhite, trustees of Nancy Horner, represent "that a slave named Dennis a portion of the trust property ... absconded and passed himself as a free man." They further report that "while passing in that character he committed a felony punishable on a slave by stripes, on a free man by confinement in the Penitentiary." The petitioners aver that they did not "he was arrested & tried & convicted as a freeman and sentenced to the penitentiary where he now is." Noting that he is "now lost to owner," the petitioners ask to be "relieved by the passage of a Law to restore him to his owners and they respectfully pray the passage of such a Law." Dennis, "by the name of William Mayo," was convicted "of having carried or caused to be carried from the town of Fredericksburg beyond the commonwealth, three slaves."

PAR Number 20482002

State: District of Columbia Year: 1820
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: John McKenney, a man of color, states that he was jailed without just cause. He claims that he "had free papers & sufficient evidence of his freedom & never ought to have been put there." He seeks a writ of habeas corpus "to the Jailer directed that he may be brought forthwith before your Honors & released."

PAR Number 20482305

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

Abstract: Andrew King, a man of color, was sold by James Friend to William McKenney in 1816, at which time McKenney issued a deed of manumission for King to be effective in December 1822. After his manumission, Friend claimed King as his slave for another term of three years. Now, in October 1823, King has been arrested and imprisoned, and believes he is about to be sold to satisfy a debt Friend owes to John McGowan and Griffith Coombe. King seeks an injunction to prevent Coombe, McGowan, or Friend from selling or removing him from the District of Columbia before the ownership dispute is settled.

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 20483515

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

Abstract: Jesse Harris asserts that he is a free person of color who is illegally imprisoned as a runaway slave. He seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20483517

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

Abstract: Nancy Jones asserts that she is a free woman of color, illegally "committed to the Prison of Washington," and unable to obtain a copy of her commitment. Jones was apprenticed by her father George Jones for four years to James Mullinix [Mullinax] to learn to be a house servant and cook. Jones seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20483603

State: District of Columbia Year: 1836
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Solomon Henry asserts that he is a free person of color illegally confined to jail on the charge of being a runaway slave. He argues that he has freedom papers. Henry seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

PAR Number 20583904

State: Florida Year: 1839
Location: Leon Location Type: County

Abstract: Belinda, a woman of color, asks the court to require the executors of the late Daniel Gantt, her former owner, to give an account of his estate and provide funds for her emancipation as stipulated in his will. She states that, after Gantt sold her, he arranged that at his death his executors would use funds from his estate to purchase her and her children and set them free. Gantt has died, and Belinda notes that her current owner, Robert H. Berry, is agreeable to such a sale. Nonetheless, the executors of the Gantt estate refuse to negotiate the purchase, citing litigation involving Belinda as security for Berry's unsettled debts.

PAR Number 20585507

State: Florida Year: 1855
Location: Leon Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah Frazier, "free by birth," came to the territory of Florida in the year 1824, as the indentured servant of George Ward, an indenture "by which she had bound herself." At the expiration of her period of service, she was acknowledged as a free person by George Ward and his son George T. Ward, who upon the death of his father, "executed to your Orators a deed of emancipation reciting therein the discharge of your Orator from the articles of indenture, and declaring your Orator and your Orators children to be free persons by birth and under the laws of this State." The petitioners reveal that "the said deed has been lost and your Orators have now no written evidence other than the memory of the said George T Ward and other persons now living whose lives are rapidly drawing to a close." They therefore that George T. Ward be decreed to "execute to your Orators as the Excr of his father a deed declaring your orators to be free."

PAR Number 20782810

State: Kentucky Year: 1828
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Willis Green claims that James and Robert McGregor, owners of the steamboat "Cincinnati," permitted his slave Ben to board their boat and then transported him to Pittsburgh. He has not been able to recover the slave and asks that the McGregors be restrained from removing the "Cincinnati" or their other boat, the "Montezuma," from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, until further order of the court and that "said boats be attached to answer the demand of your orator for the value of said slave & his hire & damages for carrying him away."

PAR Number 20783003

State: Kentucky Year: 1830
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Rachel believes that she, along with other slaves, was emancipated by John Rodgers and that the deed of manumission is recorded in Maryland. Rodgers and most of the manumitted slaves moved to Virginia, and then to Kentucky, where Rodgers died. Sometime after his death, one of Rachael's arms was seriously impaired, and she was persuaded by Tunis Applegate, whom she believed to be an Indian doctor, to go with him to his house in Jefferson County. Her arm was cured and she stayed with him for 2 or 3 years "when to her great astonishment he claimed her as a slave." Applegate tried to sell her, but the purchasers were deterred, suspecting the bill of sale he produced was forged. She has one child named George Washington, and she fears Applegate will send her and her child "down the River" to be sold. She asks the court to restrain him from removing and selling them until her suit for their freedom on the law side of the court is heard.

PAR Number 20783314

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

Abstract: William Pickett charges that three of his slaves, one of "ordinary complexion" and two of "yellow complexion," were taken on board the steamboat Charleston "as labourers or passengers without any legal authority whatever." He believes they have now fled to Canada, and he asks that the owners of the steamboat be compelled to reimburse him for their value plus damages.

PAR Number 20783612

State: Kentucky Year: 1836
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: William Freeman [alias Nat] claims that he is a free man of color, a matter of record on file in Virginia and Cincinnati. He has been working on steamboats, but four weeks ago in New Orleans he was seized as a slave and claimed by Charles Anderson, "who is reputed to be a gambler." He further asserts that his attested copy of the Virginia record of his freedom was then "taken from him and torn in pieces before his eyes." Anderson sold him to James Long, who took him to Louisville, where he ran away. He was recaptured and is now in jail. He asks that the defendants be restrained from removing him until he can send to Virginia and get proof of his free status.

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