Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South

Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South

Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South

Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South

Excerpt

In 1859 a twenty-eight-year-old free black woman named Jane Moore requested of the Sixth District Court of New Orleans that she be enslaved. Explaining in her petition how she was emancipated in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1855, prior to her move to New Orleans in 1856, Jane Moore did not wish to remain free:

By virtue of an act of the legislature approved March 1859, per
mitting free persons of African descent to select their masters
and become slaves for life, she is … thereof willing to select
and has selected Elias Wolf as a fit and [able?] person to become
her said master for life in accordance with the aforesaid act. …
[The] petitioner shows that this application is her real and vol
untary intent and purpose to become the slave of the said Elias
Wolf and that she is acting according to her own dictates and in
accordance of the provisions of the aforesaid act in selecting Elias
Wolf as her master to possess her as his slave for life without the
persuasion of any other third person. Wherefore petitioner prays
for due and legal publication of this application as required by
law, and that she said Elias Wolf, her decided master, be cited to
appear and answer this petition and that after due and legal pro
ceeding … that your petitioner be decreed a slave for life and the
property of Elias Wolf for the costs of suit and all general relief.

The “real” writer of this petition (perhaps Elias Wolf himself) was obviously familiar with both the etiquette of legalistic prose and recent changes in Louisiana law that permitted “voluntary” enslavement. Jane Moore’s only input was to sign the document with an “X.” Notice of her request was then posted outside the courthouse for the requisite thirty . . .

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