Archive for the ‘Free blacks’ Category

” forty of our Friends brought up the rear”

ANN HEAD WARDER accompanied her husband John to the United States in 1786 and spent much of her time visiting relatives in and around Philadelphia. She described some of them to her sister Elizabeth in England. Cousin Sukey she reported “is married to a butcher, (a profession Friends follow here), who is remarkably short, fat and a good tempered man and everything about the house so plainly indicated a happy connection that I felt truly comforted.”
Of her sister-in-law Emlen “whose husband has been away several weeks,” she suggested that “it might be happy if he would never come home again, though perhaps she don’t think so.”

On a visit to John Clifford and his wife who were “esteemed by some the superior Male and Female for understanding in the city,” she said of John:

[he] is a stout, good tempered looking man; his wife a little woman but a great talker, has much affectation in her manner which is disagreeable at first acquaintance and she has the reputation for wearing the breeches, but whether deserved I cannot tell. But one thing I observed, it was necessary that somebody should take the petticoat.”

Ann sampled watermelon that she had for the first time “about which the natives of this country talk much . . . which in hot weather tastes like sweetened snow.”

She attended one funeral and observed another, that of a black man.

7th mo.22d.—The intelligence of the death of Robert Valentine at first was rather a shock to me, and I felt a particular inclination to attend his funeral. . . . [A foursome set out, stayed at an inn on the way.]
7 mo. 23d.—At four o’clock we were aroused and got up just as day was breaking. We had twelve miles to go which we accomplished before seven. . . . [Sammy and I] sat in the room with the corpse, whose features looked just as when alive—he was laid in one of his own shirts with a sheet first put into the coffin, which looked much more natural and comfortable than our woolen except his having no cap on, that I never remember seeing before. . . . [They departed for the meeting leaving] the multitude, not less . . . than five hundred mostly on horseback. . . . I never saw the like, full half appeared to be women who are here very shiftable [able to get around easily] if they have a good creature,—which is what all in this part of the country call horses,—they ride by themselves with a safeguard which when done with is tied to the saddle and the horse hooked to a rail, standing all meeting time almost as still as their riders sit. The carrying of the corpse I did not like, as it was only corded on to a thing like the bottom part of a single horse chaise, which is the general mode here when the distance is too far for shoulder [carriers] except that a box in the shape of a coffin is fixed and the corpse slipped in. The burying ground adjoined the meeting house and dear Robert with solemnity was interred, and after standing a few minutes at the grave we all went in. . . . We had a very long but comfortable meeting, and several Friends spoke. . . .

8th mo. 8th.—After meeting went to Aunt Emlen’s to drink tea and while there was called to see a black’s burial, who is reputed to have conducted himself with great reputation and was a man of some consequence. Six men walked first, then the corpse was carried by four of the most agreeable looking negroes I ever saw, being well dressed and appeared to be like men of property. Next followed fifty women, in couples, then one hundred and sixty men, then ninety-six more women, and about forty of our Friends brought up the rear, which would look very singular with us, but is common here for them to attend all church buryings.

“Extracts from the Diary of Mrs. Ann Warder” 458-61, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XVII, 1893, No. 1.

posted October 7th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Death,Food,Free blacks,Pennsylvania,Philadelphia,Quakers,Warder, Ann Head

“They have sold and have stripped me of everything “

Although the legal status of slavery in the South was untouched by the Revolutionary War the chaos engendered by that conflict made it possible for many slaves to escape, some to join the British with their offer of freedom, others to try to survive on their own. A few masters had manumitted their slaves and there was a small population of free blacks. These were always in danger of being seized by marauding bands or opportunistic individuals and forced back into slavery. The following petition of one Margareta Powell to the governor of Maryland in 1779 illustrates the plight of one such woman and her family.

The Humble Petition of Margareta Powell to his Excellency the Governor of the State of Maryland

Show that your Honor humble petitioner being formerly the property of a certain late John Campbell lastly living near the Fork of Potocktion near Mr.Henry Ridgley’s in the year 1764. My master John Campbell set me free and for to certify the same, I have enclosed a certificate from the gentleman whom my master employed to enter me upon the Records. At the decease of my master he left me part of 200 acres of land and part of the moveable which was left by him for support of myself and my children whom my master had set free altogether for the space of three years before my master decease. My children were free dealers throughout the neighborhood, those that were of age have taken the oath of fidelity and have entered into the service of their country and one of them having a furlong to come to see me. They who have disinherited me have taken and sold him for life time and if the other should come from the camp they threaten to do the same to him—and all the rest of my children and grandchildren throughout the neighborhood. They have sold and have stripped me of everything I had and burned me out of my house and I being old and infirm and unable to help myself I most humbly implore your honor would look into the affair and help the wronged and afflicted and I shall be in duty bound to pray and thank your excellency.
Margareta Powell

The man who claims this right from me and my children is one John Ashton, a Priest—he sold my child to a certain Thomas Snowden residing in the same neighborhood and he has sold them to others about the neighborhood Fork of Potocktion.
Ann Arundal County

It is not known whether Margareta’s petition was successful. The fact that she sought redress is evidence of her courage and determination to preserve her children’s freedom and to keep the family unit together.

Source: Sylvia R. Frey and Marian J. Morton, New World, New Roles: A Documentary History of Women in Pre-Industrial America (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1986) p137-38, from: Maryland State Papers, Blue Book IV, 10, Maryland Hall of Records, Annapolis, MD.

posted May 19th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Free blacks,Powell, Margareta,Slaves/slavery,The South

Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson

Since Sally Hemings has come up in recent posts (here, and here) I think it is time to deal with the controversy surrounding her and her presumed sexual relationship with Thomas Jefferson. Hence this long post.

Sally Hemings, her mother and five siblings, were among the 139 slaves inherited by Thomas Jefferson’s wife upon the death of her father John Wayles. Moved to Monticello, the Hemingses had privileged positions there—most were domestic servants or trained as artisans. Sally was a maid to the two Jefferson daughters and had other light domestic duties.

When his wife died in 1782, weeks after their daughter Lucy was born, Jefferson was heartbroken and, it is said, promised Martha on her deathbed that he would never marry again. (He never did.) Jefferson was only 39 years old. Given the fact that in the ten years of their marriage, Martha had six children—two of whom lived to adulthood: Martha “Patsy” and Mary “Polly”—it would not be amiss to infer that Jefferson had a fairly strong libido. On the other hand, most couples at that time had large families and did not practice any sort of birth control.

In 1784, Jefferson went to Paris to take up his duties the following year as minister to France, replacing Benjamin Franklin who chose to retire. He took Patsy with him—placing her in a convent school—but left Polly, her maid and companion Sally Hemings, and toddler Lucy with their Aunt Elizabeth Wayles Eppes in Southside, Virginia. Jefferson was crushed when he learned of Lucy’s death from whooping cough at the age of two-and-a-half.

AN ASIDE—Alone and lonely, Jefferson was introduced to Maria Cosway in August 1786. The daughter of an English father and an Italian mother, Cosway, an artist married to fellow artist Richard Cosway, was beautiful and intelligent. Jefferson was smitten by her. The two found they shared an interest in art and architecture and spent many days together going to exhibits in Paris and traveling through the French countryside. It is unclear whether their romantic attachment was consummated. Maria’s return to London in October, at the insistence of her husband, inspired Jefferson to compose a 4,000-word love letter called “The Dialogue of the Head vs. the Heart,” a conversation he has with himself about the struggle between the practical and the romantic. Although Jefferson and Cosway corresponded throughout their lives, expressing affection for each other, they never resumed their close relationship. END OF ASIDE.

It may be that the death of Jefferson’s daughter Lucy prompted him to send for his daughter Polly. At any rate, Sally Hemings accompanied Polly, in 1787, to London and on to Paris. It is unclear whether Sally lived in the Jefferson household at the Hôtel de Langeac or whether she was with the Jefferson daughters at their convent school. What is known is that Jefferson had her inoculated against smallpox, that she was tutored in French, and boarded for a time at a laundry where she received instruction. At some point she was paid a wage of $2 a month.

Jefferson had also brought James Hemings, Sally’s brother, to Paris to have him trained in the art of French cooking. It is worthy of note that a slave brought to France could sue for his/her freedom as slavery was illegal in that country. Neither Sally nor James did that; they opted to return to the United States with Jefferson in 1789—they had large families there—when he was appointed secretary of state in the new national government.

It may have been in Paris that a sexual relationship developed between the Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. She was, after all, a stepsister of his wife and may have resembled her. Their liaison became a subject of speculation during Jefferson’s lifetime, chiefly in 1802 when political journalist, James Callender, published an article in a Richmond newspaper claiming that Sally was Jefferson’s concubine.

The controversy continued over the years until 2000 when The Thomas Jefferson Research Foundation assembled the pertinent information on the subject, including documentary and statistical evidence, oral evidence from descendants, as well as scientific evidence, namely DNA results. The study’s report found that someone carrying the Jefferson Y-chromosome fathered Eston Hemings, the last child born to Sally Hemings (1808). Based on the findings, the report stated that “the simplest and most probable” conclusion was that Thomas Jefferson had fathered Eston Hemings. Most historians now agree that Jefferson was the father of at least one and probably all of Sally’s six children.

The evidence indicates a high degree of probability; this does not mean that the conclusion is incontrovertible. Indeed, in 2011, the Jefferson Heritage Society issued its own report, after reviewing the same material, concluding that it was more likely that Jefferson’s younger brother Randolph was the father of at least some of Sally Hemings’s children.

With regard to Sally’s children: all were given their freedom, some of the males prior to Jefferson’s death in 1826, and the other children, according to Jefferson’s will, after the age of twenty-one. No other slaves were freed by his will; the remainder—140— were auctioned off in 1827 to pay his many debts. Sally herself was not technically freed. She was “given her time,” probably by Patsy Jefferson Randolph. This was an informal method of emancipation that prevented the freed individual from having to leave Virginia within a year as ordered by law. Sally lived at first with two of her sons in Charlottesville, and later on her own.

Sally Hemings died in 1835; her burial place is not known. Was she was literate? Nothing written by her has surfaced. And there are no known images of her. Slave owners often had sexual relations with female slaves—this was the case with Jefferson’s father-in-law. Few openly acknowledged these liaisons or legally recognized the resulting offspring.

Sources can be found online HERE, and HERE, and HERE. Read about Maria Cosway HERE. Jefferson’s Dialogue can be found HERE.

posted January 29th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Cosway, Maria,Free blacks,Hemings, James,Hemings, Sally,Jefferson, Martha "Patsy",Jefferson, Mary "Polly",Paris,Slaves/slavery

“they did not chuse to go to School with a Black Boy”

Abigail Adams in Quincy wrote a newsy letter on February 13, 1797 to her husband describing what was needed to keep their farm going for the spring: plowing, sowing, manuring, additional hands, the renewal of a rental agreement on some property, and the like. She also described what happened when she sent one of their free Negro workers to an evening school.

I have been much diverted with a little occurence which took place a few days since and which serve to shew how little founded in nature the so much boasted principle of Liberty and equality is. Master Heath has opend an Evening School to instruct a Number of Apprentices Lads cyphering at a shilling a week, finding their own wood and candles.

James desired that he might go. I told him to go with my compliments to Master Heath and ask him if he would take him. He did & Master Heath returnd for answer that he would. Accordingly James went. After about a week, Neighbour Faxon came in one Evening and requested to speak to me. His Errant was to inform me that if James went to School, it would break up the School for the other Lads refused to go. Pray Mr. Faxon has the Boy misbehaved? If he has let the Master turn him out of school. O no, there was no complaint of that kind, but they did not chuse to go to School with a Black Boy. And why not object to going to meeting because he does Mr. Faxon? Is there not room enough in the School for him to take his seperate forme? Yes. Did these Lads ever object to James playing for them when at a dance? How can they bear to have a Black in the Room with them there? O it is not I that object, or my Boys. It is some others. Pray who are they? Why did not they come themselves? This Mr. Faxon is attacking the principle of Liberty and equality upon the only Ground upon which it ought to be supported, an equality of Rights. The Boy is a Freeman as much as any of the young Men, and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? Is this the Christian principle of doing to others, as we would have others do to us? O Mam, you are quite right. I hope you wont take any offence. None at all Mr. Faxon, only be so good as to send the young men to me. I think I can convince them that they are wrong. I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlour and teach him both to read & write. Tell them Mr. Faxon that I hope we shall all go to Heaven together. Upon which Faxon laugh’d, and thus ended the conversation. I have not heard any more upon the subject. I have sent Prince constantly to the Town School for some time, and have heard no objection.

“Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 13 February 1797 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society, HERE.

posted June 30th, 2014 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Education,Free blacks

   Copyright © 2017 In the Words of Women.