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Showing 81–90 of 1748 results

Finding Freedom: Jack - Record from Trial of “Jack a Negro Man Slave”

On April 13, 1781, Jack faced charges of theft, rebellion, and attempted murder at the Botetourt County courthouse in Fincastle, Virginia. Like all enslaved people in Virginia, Jack was denied a jury trial. Instead, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by a group of justices. This written record of his case is the earliest known documentation of Jack’s activity during the Revolutionary War.

Court Order Book, Vol. 5a (pp.100-101), Botetourt County Courthouse, Virginia

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Finding Freedom: Eve - Newspaper Advertisement for Eve

On February 2, 1782, Peyton Randolph’s nephew, Harrison, advertised in “The Virginia Gazette” that Eve ran away from slavery after the Siege of Yorktown. It is unknown if she was successful. Runaway advertisements are valuable documents for historians studying enslaved people because they help confirm a variety of biographical details such as age, location, and physical appearance. 

Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary

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Finding Freedom: Eve - St. George Tucker’s Letter to Fanny Tucker

Williamsburg, Virginia, resident St. George Tucker wrote this letter to his wife Fanny in 1781 and described that the British Army left "pestilence" and "poverty" behind them following their occupation of the city. He noted that many enslaved people ran away from Williamsburg with the army. One of Tucker’s neighbors was left with "but one little boy...to wait on them.” Eve and her son George were among the enslaved people who left Williamsburg to follow the British Army in search of their freedom. St. George Tucker lived on the same street as the Randolph family, the owners of Eve and George.

Tucker-Coleman Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary

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Finding Freedom: Eve - Elizabeth Randolph’s Will and Codicil

According to her 1780 will, Elizabeth Randolph requested that Eve and her son George were to be inherited by her niece Ann Coupland. The other enslaved people owned by Elizabeth Randolph were to be inherited by her other nieces and nephews. Two years later, Randolph wrote a codicil (additional directions) for her will that changed her decision about Eve’s future. Randolph described that she sold Eve due to “bad behavior,” likely referring to Eve’s decision to runaway from Williamsburg. The money from the sale of Eve was to be used to purchase an enslaved boy for her nephew and an enslaved girl for her niece.

This historical record is dedicated to the Museum of the American Revolution by the York County-Poquoson Circuit Court, Authorized by the Honorable Kristen N. Nelson, Clerk

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Finding Freedom: Eve - Randolph Household Inventory

Following Peyton Randolph’s death in 1775, York County, Virginia, officials recorded this inventory of his possessions. The names and values (in pounds) of the enslaved people he owned are recorded on pages four through ten of the inventory. Eve’s name is listed on page five of the inventory, while her son George’s name is listed on page four. Eve and another woman named Betty were assigned values of 100 pounds each, the highest values among the enslaved women recorded in the inventory. These high values suggest that Eve and Betty worked in the Randolph home. Eve’s status may have changed following her attempt to escape from the Randolph family with her son in search of freedom. At least two handwritten copies of this inventory survive. The other copy includes the notation “gone to the enemy” next to the names of Eve and George, referring to when they first ran away from the Randolph family in search of their freedom in late-1775 or early-1776.

This historical record is dedicated to the Museum of the American Revolution by the York County-Poquoson Circuit Court, Authorized by the Honorable Kristen N. Nelson, Clerk

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Finding Freedom: Eve - Bruton & Middleton Parish Register, page 83

This page from the record book for Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, lists the baptism of Eve’s infant son George on July 6, 1766. The names of George and Eve can be found near the middle of the page. When Eve and George first ran away from the Randolph family in search of their freedom in late-1775 or early-1776, George was about 10 years old.

Courtesy of Bruton Parish Church

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Finding Freedom: Eve - Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation

On November 14, 1775, Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore published this proclamation in Williamsburg that freed “all indented Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) … that are able and willing to bear Arms” for the King. Eve and her son George were among the 800 or so enslaved people who fled to Lord Dunmore as the news spread.

Dunmore’s Proclamation, A 1775 .V55, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

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Finding Freedom: Deborah - Birch Pass

In the terms of the surrender to the Americans, the British were to return all captured property—including human property. The British did not adhere to this stipulation, and instead evacuated thousands of free and formerly enslaved men and women to Canada. Birch Passes, named for British Brigadier General Samuel Birch, were given to those who could prove they sought the protection of the British forces during the war. The passes, such as this example, guaranteed a place on a departing ship. According to the 1783 “Inspection Roll of Negroes,” Deborah received a Birch Pass that allowed her to go to Nova Scotia as a free person. Cato Rammsay, an enslaved man who escaped from Norfolk, Virginia, received this Birch Pass that allowed him to go to Nova Scotia as well. 

Passport for Cato Ramsay to emigrate to Nova Scotia, 21 April 1783; NSA, Gideon White fonds, MG 1 vol. 948 no. 196

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Finding Freedom: Deborah - “Muster Book of Free Black Settlement of Birchtown,” Page 40

When Deborah arrived in Nova Scotia in 1783, she was one of many newly freed people of African descent who helped settle Birchtown, a town named for British Brigadier General Samuel Birch. This page from a 1784 census, or list of residents, documents the men and women who lived in Birchtown the year after the town’s founding. Deborah’s name, recorded as Deborah Lynch, can be found near the bottom of the page on the left side. Harry, her husband listed in the 1783 “Inspection Roll of Negroes,” is not included in this census. He may have died due to the harsh conditions and bad weather that the settlers faced. Deborah likely took the last name Lynch because Harry had been owned by a Loyalist named Lynch, whom Deborah also lived with for a short time. In this document, Deborah is listed as a member of the household of a man named Neil Robinson. No other details about their relationship status are currently known.

“Muster Book of Free Black Settlement of Birchtown,” 1784, Library and Archives Canada, MG 9 B9-14, item 1292

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Finding Freedom: Deborah - George Washington’s Letter to Lund Washington

On April 30, 1781, General George Washington wrote this letter to Lund Washington, his cousin and farm manager, to express his disgust with Lund Washington’s decision to supply the British when they came to Mount Vernon earlier that month. In General Washington’s absence, Lund Washington convinced the British to spare the plantation from being destroyed by providing them with food and supplies. General Washington wrote in response, “It would have been a less painful circumstance to me, to have heard…they had burnt my House, & laid the Plantation in Ruins.” Lund Washington’s negotiation saved the property, but General Washington felt his honor had been tarnished by giving in to the enemy. The departure of 17 enslaved people, including Deborah, only worsened Washington’s embarrassment. Although the British left Washington’s plantation untouched, they burned many neighboring properties.

George Washington Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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