Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11678001

State: Virginia Year: 1780
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Benjamin Bilberry, a free person of color, traded land for his wife Kate, a slave held by Abraham Cowley. Bilberry laments, however, that "this purchase instead of liberating his said wife & freeing her perpetually from the Shackles of Bondage has only changed her master." He acknowledges that to even "his uncultivated Mind it is irksome to know that he himself, by the Laws of this, now independant Common Wealth, is forced to hold his own Wife in a Slavish Bondage without the power of making her as free as himself." The petitioner therefore prays that "no policy may restrict your Honor from suffering him to enjoy the sweet reflection of having spent the whole labours of his Life in bestowing freedom on one equal by nature ... to himself & whom he has chosen to be the partner of his worldly Cares."

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 11680923

State: Virginia Year: 1809
Location: Amelia Location Type: County

Abstract: Amelia County residents seek to emancipate the family of Frank Gowen, an industrious free black man who purchased his wife and children, with whom he then lived "in peace and quietude." Gowen has recently died and although "no individual claim whatever has been or can be made to his family— Patience and the children Philemon, Elizabeth and Henry—the four slaves are nevertheless liable to be sold by the Overseers of the Poor. Patience and the children are honest, peaceful, and respectable, and deserve special consideration, the petitioners assure the legislative body.

PAR Number 11681007

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Free black Henry Birch purchased his two slave sons, John and Bond, from William Dandridge Claiborne Esq., of King William County, and asks that they be emancipated and allowed to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11681110

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Accomack Location Type: County

Abstract: Robin Justice, who purchased himself from his owner, William Justice, around 1801, purchased his wife, Eve, three years later, from Henry Parker, for the sum of 68 pounds. He purchased Even with the objective of emancipating her. As he did not have the full amount for the purchase, he applied to two white citizens to be his securities; the two men agreed to loan him the money, but on the condition that Eve would be conveyed to her husband as a slave, acting as collateral on the debt. During the next few years, the couple had two children. Eve and the children have remained in bondage pending repayment of the purchase price to Robin Justice's securities. He has now recently fully paid the debt and wishes to emancipate his family. Unfortunately, he explains, they are subject to the law passed 25 January 1806, requiring emancipated blacks to leave the state within one year, or be sold by overseers of the poor. He asks that his family be emancipated and allowed to remain in the state.

PAR Number 11681119

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Southampton Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1805, Jemima Hunt, a free woman of color, contracted with Benjamin Barrett to purchase her husband Stephen, promising to pay ten pounds each year for ten years. She has now paid the full amount and holds the title to her husband; she wishes to emancipate him. However, if she attempts to set Stephen free, she faces the prospect of being separated from him by the law that requires that all slaves freed after a certain date leave the state. She explains to the legislature that she and Stephen have a large number of children that they must support by their joint labor, and "without the assistance of her husband" the children will "suffer or become burdensome." She asks the legislature to take her case into consideration and grant Stephen permission to reside in the state after emancipation "& to enjoy all the priviledges that other free people of colour are entitled to."

PAR Number 11681211

State: Virginia Year: 1812
Location: Prince William Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-eight-year-old Daniel Webster, "a freeman of Colour now in the decline of life," represents that "while a Slave he connected himself with a mulatto woman as his wife by whom he has several children." Webster reports that he "lately purchased his said wife (whose name is Lucy) and being unwilling to hold in bondage one thus connected with him, and the mother of his children ... he is exceedingly solicitous to emancipate her." The petitioner fears, however, that the "Consequence of his wifes Emancipation" would result in being "turned out into another and Strange State where they are unknown" unless "your Honorable body will under the peculiar Circumstances of the Case relax the rigor of the law and permit his wife after her liberation to remain in her native Country." For this “indulgence, your Petitioner humbly prays.”

PAR Number 11681213

State: Virginia Year: 1812

Abstract: Elly, a free woman of color, represents that she "has been married many years to and has several children by a slave by the name of Nelson." She further recounts that "the father of the said Nelson who is a white person has been lately enabled to purchase him with design to have emancipated him." Elly declares that her husband refuses to be freed if it means "eternal seperation from his family." Noting that Nelson's father "has had the conveyance for him made to your petitioner and her children," Elly prays that she be allowed to free her husband and that he be permitted to remain in the state.

PAR Number 11681311

State: Virginia Year: 1813
Location: Surry Location Type: County

Abstract: In December 1812, Jenny Parker's owner, Josiah Wilson, died, bequeathing Jenny her freedom. One of her children had long since been emancipated, Jenny explains, and owns real estate, personal property, and two of her other children. Now "advanced in years," Jenny Parker asks for permission to remain in Virginia, with her children and friends.

PAR Number 11681407

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Hembro and Dilsy Gallego represent that Joseph Gallego executed deeds of manumission for Hembro on 15 December 1807 and for Dilsy on 7 July 1801. They recount that they have "possessed themselves of some valuable real and personal property which has been acquired by honest Industry." The couple further represents that they have a son named Phil, who "was born in Bondage," and that they "purchased him of his owner." They therefore "look with anxiety to Your Honourable Bodies to sustain their Petitioners, and that their Prayer may be granted, which is, that Phil their only Son, and only Child, may be emancipated from the Shackles of his Parents Successors, and that he may be enabled to inherit, at the Death of Your Petitioners, the property they may possess, and hold the same to all interests and purposes, as tho he had been born originally free."

PAR Number 11681408

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Philip Hembro Gallego, a free person of color, asks to remain in Virginia to provide "the fostering care and attention ... and the comfort and affection" to his parents, who are "now growing old." He states that Joseph Gallego freed his parents, Hembro and Dilsey Gallego, many years ago and that they purchased and emancipated him in hopes that he might "inherit, possess and enjoy at their death all the property which they now hold or may hereafter acquire." Noting that he is a mechanic, Gallego prays that a law be passed "authorising your Petitioner to remain in the state of Virginia."

PAR Number 11681412

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: In her 1810 will, free woman of color named Patsey Jackson bequeathed a house and lot in Richmond to Richard North, a white man. She instructed North to purchase a slave named Henry and allow Henry to purchase his freedom. She also asked that North give Henry a "part of the property devised" to him. After Jackson's death, one of the witnesses to the will, William J. Dunn, said he would not "prove" the will unless he received one-half of the property. "This proposition being too monstrous to be listened to for a moment," North asserts, he "instantly left" Dunn and "determined to coerce his attendance" in court. But Dunn continued to refuse proving the will under various reasons. North asks the legislature to intervene. If nothing is done, he says, the property will escheat to the state, as Jackson had no free relatives.

PAR Number 11681416

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Amherst Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-seven-year-old free black John Charleston purchased himself a number of years ago for 110 pounds. He has now been able to also purchase his wife, Ursley, and two children, Asberry and Caroline. He asks for the freedom of Ursley and the children; he requests that they be permitted to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11681503

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Charles City

Abstract: Emancipated about six years prior the filing of his petition, by the "Kindness & liberality" of his late master, Robert Pleasants, free black Henry Carter purchased his slave wife and "other property both personal and real." Carter now wishes to emancipate Priscilla and asks that she be permitted to remain in the commonwealth, exempted from the emigration law.

PAR Number 11681514

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: Through industry and economy Samuel Johnson purchased himself from his owner Edward Digges, receiving permission from the legislature to remain in the state. Now, again through strict attention to business, he saved "a large sum of money" and purchased his wife and children. He asks that they be emancipated and permitted to remain in Virginia. A related petition reveals that Samuel or Sam Johnson (also called Johnston in other related petitions) was a man of mixed race.

PAR Number 11681802

State: Virginia Year: 1818
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: In his will, free black Lewis Turner, deceased, emancipated his wife Aggie, whom he had purchased from Henry Chappell. Knowing that freed slaves, unless liberated for some meritorious act, were required to leave Virginia within twelve months, Turner instructs his executor to petition the General Assembly for an act permitting her to remain in Virginia. She is about forty-five or fifty years old, and had served her master faithfully until purchased by her husband.

PAR Number 11681901

State: Virginia Year: 1819
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: In May 1806, free black barber Caesar Hope, who cut hair in Williamsburg when it was the seat of government, and later in Richmond when it became the capital, wrote a will providing for the purchase and emancipation of his slave children, one of whom is the petitioner, Judith Hope, and the other a boy since deceased. Following Caesar Hope's death, Judith was purchased by her mother who executed a deed of emancipation in accordance with her husband's will. However, in 1807, shortly after Caesar Hope had made his will, a law was passed requiring freed slaves leave the state after acquiring freedom; more recently, in 1816, the law has been relaxed, but it still restricts to slaves emancipated for "extraordinary merit" the privilege of remaining in the state. Judith realizes that she cannot make such a claim, and "the longest life of utility and quiet good conduct," such as hers, can only be "rewarded with banishment for all that can bind a sentient and rational creature to life." She cannot resign herself to such a fate and to severing "every connection and every habit and partiality of her life." As dear as freedom is she could not accept it "above all price." She prays that "by the indulgence of the honorable the Legislature" to be "permitted to live and enjoy the blessings of freedom within the Commonwealth of Virginia." A related document reveals that the name of Judith's mother was Tener Hope.

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.

PAR Number 11682002

State: Virginia Year: 1820
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Judith Hope, a woman of color, informs the court that her father, the late Caesar Hope, a free man of color and a barber who cut hair in Williamsburg when it was the seat of government, and later in Richmond when it became the capital, wrote a will providing for the purchase and emancipation of his slave children. A number of years prior to his death, Caesar had purchased his wife and later freed her; it was his desire to "bestow the same advantages" upon his children, who had been born while his wife was still a slave and thus born in slavery. At the time of his death, they were still slaves. In order to see his wish accomplished, Caesar instructed his executor, Edmund Randolph, to purchase the children and emancipate them. However, the law of 1806 requiring "the removal from the commonwealth of all persons who should be emancipated after the 1st day of may next succeeding the date of that act under penalty of an absolute forfeiture of freedom" is forcing Judith to make a choice: give up "the blessings of liberty" or be separated "from every friend and natural connexion upon earth." Although the law has recently made provisions to exempt slaves who have "rendered distinguished public service" from the emigration requirement, Judith realizes she cannot avail herself of this exemption, for she is among those who have led "a long life of humble," yet undistinguished, "usefulness." She nevertheless prays that her mother, "who in obedience to the will and with a portion of the effects of the late Caesar Hope," has purchased her, will be permitted to manumit her, "exempt from the hard condition of perpetual exile. For to leave would be to give up "every friend and natural connexion upon earth, to sunder every habit and association which years have fostered and matured," says Judith Hope. Under such conditions freedom would become a "cruel mockery." A related document reveals that Caesar Hope's will had been written in 1806.

PAR Number 11682004

State: Virginia Year: 1820
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: Free black Samuel Johnston owns his wife, Patty, daughter Lucy, and son Samuel. He would have freed them long ago if he had not been intimidated by the law requiring their "speedy departure from the Commonwealth." He now asks that they be freed, and permitted to remain in Virginia. A related document reveals that Samuel Johnston owned property valued at $3,600 in 1820. Several related petitions provide supplemental petitions on Sam or Samuel Johnston (also called Johnson). He was a man of mixed raced who had purchased his freedom and had been free as early as 1812. He had later purchased his family and attempted to free them.

PAR Number 11682111

State: Virginia Year: 1821
Location: Williamsburg Location Type: City

Abstract: Judith Hope, a slave, petitions the legislature because she believes that the bill of complaint she previously submitted and which had been granted "was lost in the branch of the Legislature." She reminds the court of the circumstances of her request. Her father, she explains, the late Caesar Hope, a free man of color and a barber who cut hair in Williamsburg when it was the seat of government, and later in Richmond when it became the capital, wrote a will providing for the purchase and emancipation of his slave children. A number of years prior to his death, Caesar had purchased his wife and later freed her; it was his desire to "bestow the same advantages" upon his children, who had been born while his wife was still a slave and thus born in slavery. At the time of his death, they were still slaves. In order to see his wish accomplished, Caesar instructed his executor, Edmund Randolph, to purchase the children and emancipate them. However, the law of 1806 requiring "the removal from the commonwealth of all persons who should be emancipated after the 1st day of may next succeeding the date of that act under penalty of an absolute forfeiture of freedom" is forcing Judith to make a choice: give up "the blessings of liberty" or be separated "from every friend and natural connexion upon earth." Although the law has recently made provisions to exempt slaves who have "rendered distinguished public service" from the emigration requirement, Judith realizes she cannot avail herself of this exemption, for she is among those who have led "a long life of humble," yet undistinguished, "usefulness." She nevertheless prays that her mother, "who in obedience to the will and with a portion of the effects of the late Caesar Hope," has purchased her, will be permitted to manumit her, "exempt from the hard condition of perpetual exile. For to leave would be to give up "every friend and natural connexion upon earth, to sunder every habit and association which years have fostered and matured," says Judith Hope. Under such conditions freedom would become a "cruel mockery." Judith once more invokes "the clemency of those who hold her destinies in their power, humbly hoping that the circumstances distinguishing her case, particularly the fact that a portion of her little property has been vested in this favorite purpose, together with the testimonies of her character will induce a more favorable result." related document reveals that Caesar Hope's will had been written in 1806.

PAR Number 11682204

State: Virginia Year: 1822
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel Johnston, a free man of color, informs the General Assembly that at their last session his petition to emancipate his daughter was "ineffectual" because he had failed to submit "Sufficient evidence." He now offers additional evidence with his renewed petition. Related petitions reveal that Samuel Johnson, a man of mixed race also called Sam Johnson, had been free as early as 1812 and that he had purchased his family.

PAR Number 11682306

State: Virginia Year: 1823
Location: Fluvanna Location Type: County

Abstract: Anna Shelton, a slave owned by John Ashlin, married Peyton Shelton, a free man of color, who purchased and emancipated her. Now she discovers that by law she must leave "her husband, her home & her friends." She seeks permission to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11682307

State: Virginia Year: 1823
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: Free black Samuel Johnston seeks to emancipate his wife Patty and daughter Lucy, and asks that they be granted permanent residency in Fauquier County. Through a "life of activity & honesty," he had obtained to means to purchase his family. Related petitions reveal that Samuel Johnston (also called Sam Johnson) was a man of mixed race who had been free as early as 1812.

PAR Number 11682403

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: Fluvanna Location Type: County

Abstract: Peyton Shelton, a free man of color "emancipated by a decree of the high court of chancery," joins his wife Anna in representing that he purchased said Anna and has emancipated her. They lament, however, that she can not remain in Virginia. Acknowledging that laws must be general and the actions of some free blacks have made punitive codes necessary, they "venture to hope" that their circumstances will be considered and Anna will be permitted to remain in Virginia.

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