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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Emancipation in Mecklenburg VA


The law passed in 1793 required that:

"annually the Negro shall be delivered a copy for 25 cents. A penalty is fixed for employing a Negro without a certificate; the Negro may be committed to jail. Every free Negro shall once every 3 years obtain a new one"

The Black Laws of Virginia
June Purcell Guild

Free Negroes (Blacks, Mulattoes, FPOC) are always known in the communities in which they lived..why risk it? because depending on the counties and the time frame (think Nat Turner Rebellion), not to follow the Law can have serious consequences.

The following is a transcription of a "pass" from 1859 from Henry County, VA. Daviss is going to post the actual image in another post cause I don't know how :(


At a Court held for the County of Henry 9th May 1859

Satisfactory evidence was produced to the Court that, John L. Harris a free boy of Color 4 ft 9 1/2 inches high of bright yellow complexion 13 years old part of his first finger of his left hand cut off, and an apprentice to John S Woottan; was born free in the said County of Henry, (inserted) that he is not a descendant of a female emancipated since 1 May 1806, whereupon it was ordered that he be registered.

In testimony whereof I have hereto set my hand and amended the seal of the said Court this 11th day of June in the Year 1859.
Griggs, Clk

These passes would also be used to verify their "free" status if they traveled to another county.

The 1806 reference is important, because those who were emancipated either by will or deed after 1806 would be required to leave the state, they could and did file legislative petitions to remain and after the legislature was swamped at the county court level.


You are spot on. I found several files at LVA with just such little pieces of papers as you describe. These were receipts for freed negroes registration. It would make sense that the county would keep a copy and give the freed person a copy. I also happened upon a letter from a person who was reporting to the county that his wife had accidentally destroyed a woman's paper by leaving it too close to the fire. Moreover, it appears that at least in Mecklenburg County, they charged for the registration. There were numbers on the receipts that were most likely the fees. That would explain why FPOC would not register-because they didn't have the money. Otherwise why risk it?

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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