I made up my mind I'd find me a different one.
One of my grandfathers in Africa was called Jeaceo, and so I decided to be Jackson. This financial assistance was available to all Civil War veterans and their families. However, many African Americans faced a problem when they applied for their pensions. After the war ended and slavery was abolished, they exercised their freedom by changing their names.
This meant that army records documented their service with their old names instead of their new ones. In order to receive their pensions decades later, these former soldiers and their family members had to demonstrate to the government that they were who they claimed to be. The following documents are excerpts from government records in which Dick Barnett and Mollie Smith Russell explain when and why they changed their names.
My full name is Dick Lewis Barnett. I am the applicant for pension on account of having served in Co.
Col Inf and Co. I am the identical person who served in the said companies under the name of Lewis Smith. I am the identical person who was named called and known as Dick Lewis Smith before the Civil War and during the Civil War and until I returned home after my military service. I was born in Montgomery County, Ala. When I got home after the war, I was wearing the name of Lewis Smith, but I found that the negroes after freedom, were taking the names of their father like the white folks. So I asked my mother and she told me my father John Barnett, a white man, and I took up the name of Barnett.
I was first called by that name in the family of Col. Morrow in whose service I was in Louisville, Ky.
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I was called by that name all the time I was with the Morrows. Thomas Jefferson of Louisville, bought me when I was three years of age from Mr. I belonged to him until emancipation. They called me "OCK". It was after emancipation on that I went back to work for Col. Morrow and where I got the name "Lottie," as already explained. I liked the name better than Octavia, and so I took it with me to Danville, and was never called anything else there than that name. After I had returned to Louisville from Danville, My sister, Lizzie White, got to calling me Mollie, and it was with her that the name started.
My mother's name was Octavia Smith and it was from her that I got it but where the name came from to her I never knew. I was only three years old when she died. No, I don't know to whom she belonged before she was brought from Virginia to Kentucky. These records contain personal information such as names, ages, physical descriptions, and places of residence, as well as collateral information casually provided in recorded testimonies.
As shown in the Addison family's case, information concerning the daughter's enslaved father—including details concerning his residence in Montgomery County and the full name of his owner—is found in their testimony explaining their flight. Slavery existed in the nation's capital from the very beginning of the city's history in , when Congress created the federal territory from lands formerly held by the slave states of Virginia and Maryland.
Because of its advantageous location between these two states, Washington became a center of the domestic slave trade in the 19th century and was home of one of the most active slave depots in the nation. The rapid expansion of cotton as the primary cash crop for states throughout the Deep South generated a renewed demand for slave labor.
Planters and slave dealers in the declining tobacco-centered Chesapeake region of Maryland and Virginia, sought to capitalize on this demand by selling their surplus labor in a burgeoning domestic slave market. As one historian notes, "Washington offered dealers a convenient transportation nexus between the Upper and Lower South, as the city connected to southern markets via waterways, overland roads, and later rail.
Within the District of Columbia, slave dealers housed the slaves in crowded pens and prisons as they waited to sell them.
Slavery and Emancipation in the Nation's Capital | National Archives
As Washington became the focus of abolitionism in the decades before the Civil War, antislavery activists argued that such scenes in the nation's capital disgraced the nation as a whole and its ideals. The Compromise of abolished active slave trading within the boundaries of the District, but the trade continued to flourish in Maryland and Virginia. As tensions increased nationally in the years leading up to the Civil War, slavery in the nation's capital continued to be a subject of special focus, activism, and compromise.
Throughout the s, many owners voluntarily manumitted their slaves. Of the city's black population in , those who were enslaved outnumbered those who were free by four to one; however, by the number of free blacks actually exceeded the number of slaves by three to one. The D. General Records of the U.
Government, RG View in National Archives Catalog. In the years leading up to D. On the surface, the nature of the institution seemed relatively benign compared to the harsher forms of plantation slavery in parts of the rural South, and most blacks in the District were free. Despite appearances, all African Americans in Washington—both enslaved and free—lived in a state of constant vulnerability. Those who were enslaved feared being sold further south and separated from family and loved ones.
Free blacks were required to always have on their person a copy of their "certificate of freedom," and the burden of proving their status was on them. Without proof of status, free blacks could be jailed at anytime. Even if they subsequently proved their status, detained blacks still were responsible for paying for the cost of their stay.
If they failed to prove their free status in sufficient time, they risked being sold further south into slavery. Slavery remained legal in the District until April 16, , when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia 12 Stat. The act required owners claiming compensation to file schedules listing and describing each slave by July 15, A supplementary act of July 12, 12 Stat.
The emancipation records consist of the schedules and supporting documentation submitted as a result of these two acts. The records are organized generally by the last name of slave owner act of April 16, or by the last name of slave act of July 12, Several series of records relating to slavery and emancipation in the District of Columbia have been published on microfilm and reproduced on research web sites such as Ancestry. Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, — National Archives Microfilm Publication M relates directly to the management and dispensation of the emancipation acts of April 16 and July 12, Records of the U.
District Court for the District of Columbia M , contain records relevant to the broader history and social presence of slavery in the District of Columbia. These records relate to the board of commissioners that administered the D. For the first act of April 16, a total of petitioners submitted schedules claiming and describing 3, slaves. Under the supplementary act of July 12, another individuals submitted claims, including formerly enslaved African Americans who were authorized to do so if their owners had failed to claim by the deadline of the first act.
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The petitions include the names of the slaveholders, the names of the slaves, physical descriptions of each slave, and the monetary value for the each claimed slave. The slaveholders often gave very detailed descriptions of their slaves, apparently hoping to reap a greater compensation for highly prized slaves. Eliza W.
In the petition submitted by slaveholder Clark Mills, Philip Reid—distinguished as the slave who crafted the "Statue of Freedom" for the U. The records of the U. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia in Record Group 21 contain the bulk of documents relating to both free blacks and enslaved blacks who resided in Washington, D. The circuit court records include:. These files reveal information about free and enslaved individuals from a variety of backgrounds who were part of the everyday life and culture of the region.
Philip Meredith claimed in his emancipation petition to be the former slave of General Robert Lee of Virginia, late of Arlington Heights. Philip Meredith's emancipation petition documents that the year-old African American claimed to be the former slave of "General Robert Lee of Virginia, late of Arlington Heights. Meredith apparently submitted his own schedule according to the terms of the supplementary act of July Since his owner, Robert E. Lee, had not petitioned for compensation and Meredith was hired out, working and residing in the District of Columbia at the time of emancipation, the supplementary act qualified him to file for freedom.
Mary's County, Maryland, show that Sumerville successfully purchased and freed his enslaved family, which included his wife and three small children. His proof of ownership, which documented the purchase of his family from the original owner, Mary Watts, states:. The file includes Thomas Sumerville's deed of manumission for his wife, who was officially freed by him several years later, stating:.
The case of the Sumerville family shows how free and enslaved blacks were often linked by familial bonds. It also shows how free blacks would sometimes purchase enslaved loved ones to grant their freedom. John Carter. Pope first appeared in public records as a participant in "The Pearl Affair.
A militia on a steamboat overtook the Pearl at the mouth of the Chesapeake. The majority of the slaves' owners sold the captured fugitives to states in the Deep South; a few, Pope among them, escaped that fate.
Later as a free man, Pope became a highly successful businessman, a landowner, a community leader in Georgetown, and a leading member of the black community in Washington. Pope's file contains a letter written by a white witness, John Marbury, the executor of his deceased owner's will.
Fugitive slaves in the United States
Pope submitted the letter to the circuit court to confirm that he was indeed free and to explain how he had lost earlier documents proving his freedom. As part of the Compromise of , the act of September 18, 9 Stat. The fugitive slave case records are organized by date and contain warrants for arrest and documentation of proof of ownership. The file of Mary Ann Williams, a fugitive and accused runaway, contains the warrant for her arrest. For those fugitives who successfully eluded capture, there would be no record other than the initial warrant for arrest.
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