A Guide to the Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864) Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864) 1119465, 1203566, 1203567

A Guide to the Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864)

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 1119465, 1203566, 1203567


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Processed by: LVA staff

Repository
The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
1119465, 1203566, 1203567
Title
Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864)
Physical Characteristics
1.75 cu. ft. (3 boxes)
Collector
Prince Edward County (Va.) Circuit Court.
Location
Library of Virginia
Language
English

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864). Local government records collection, Prince Edward County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 23219.

Acquisition Information

These items came to the Library of Virginia in transfers of court papers from Prince Edward County.


Historical Information

Prince Edward County was named in honor of Edward Augustus, a son of Prince Frederick Louis, a grandson of George II, and a younger brother of George III. The county was formed from Amelia County in 1753.

An act passed in 1782 by the Virginia legislature made it lawful to emancipate slaves, and also stipulated that liberated slaves neglecting to pay tax levies might be hired out by the sheriff long enough to raise the taxes.

An act passed in 1793 by the Virginia legislature required every free Negro or Mulatto to be registered and numbered in a book to be kept by the county clerk. Emancipated slaves may have been registered with the court at an earlier date in some localities. Registrations were to be renewed annually at a cost of 25 cents.

An act passed in 1801 by the Virginia legislature required commissioners of the revenue annually to return a complete list of all free African Americans within their districts, with their names, sex, place of abode, and trades, and a copy of the list to be fixed at the courthouse door.

An act passed in 1806 by the Virginia legislature required free African Americans to obtain a license for carrying a firearm.

In 1806, the General Assembly moved to remove the free Negro population from Virginia with a law that stated that all emancipated slaves, freed after May 1, 1806, who remained in the Commonwealth more than a year, would forfeit their right to freedom and be sold by the Overseers of the Poor for the benefit of the parish. Families wishing to stay were to petition the legislature through the local county court. Beginning in 1837, freed slaves could petition the local courts for permission to remain.

In September 1831, the Prince Edward County Court ordered the constables of the county's two districts to collect any arms found with any free person of color, in response to fears aroused by Nat Turner's slave revolt in August 1831.

The General Assembly passed a law as early as July 1, 1861, calling for the enrollment of free negroes to work in the public service. From 1862 to 1863, at the request of the president of the Confederate States, the General Assembly passed three more laws that requisitioned slaves to work on fortifications and other works of the public defense. Each county and city were alloted a certain number of slaves that had to be provided to the government under the requisition.

Scope and Content

Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864). These records are comprised mostly of tax records, 1801-1864, and free papers, 1808-1856, of free African Americans living in Prince Edward County before the Civil War. The collection also contains court orders, reports, correspondence, court cases, and other court records, 1783-1865, pertaining to free and enslaved African Americans in the county before emancipation.

Free Negro Lists are lists of free African Americans compiled for tax purposes. The collection contains lists of free negroes and mulattoes (free people of color) (1801-1807, 1809, 1811); lists of free negroes (free people of color) (1817-1820, undated); lists of free negroes delinquent on their taxes (1824-1863, undated), and free negro lists (1857-1864, undated). Free negro lists contain first and last name, amount of tax owed, place of abode, and trade or occupation. The lists for the years 1801-1811 include a description of the person's physical appearance (shade of complexion). Lists of negroes delinquent on their taxes, or ordered to be hired out to pay their taxes, typically contain only names, or names and amount of tax owed.

Free Negro Certificates of Registration, 1783, and 1808-1856, are documents issued by the county court to free African Americans. They served as free papers documenting free status. They contain name, sometimes age and a brief physical description, and the circumstances of the person's freedom or emancipation. If born free, reference to parents is sometimes made. If emancipated, the emancipating owner, place and date of emancipation, and prior registration as a free Negro are usually mentioned. In addition to the certificates of registration issued by the Prince Edward County Court, there are registers, or certificates of registration, issued by Albemarle County, Bedford County, Buckingham County, Brunswick County, Charlotte County, Cumberland County, Dinwiddie County, Hanover County, Lynchburg, Nottoway County, Petersburg, Richmond, and North Carolina (county unknown). There is also a letter from the clerk of the Prince George County Court requesting documentation of free status for an individual who had moved from Prince Edward to Prince George in 1850, with a copy of the person's tattered register from Prince Edward County.

The records also contain free papers and affidavits, 1840-1841, pertaining to the emancipation of Emaline, a free person of color, and her application to remain in Virginia, 1840-1841. The records are a bill of sale for Emaline, 1840; an affidavit of her emancipation by deed, 1841 June 21, by the persons who purchased her; a statement of her intention to petition the court to remain in Virginia; her application for permission to remain in the state, and an affidavit in support of her application to remain in Virginia. The affidavit includes a description of her character and the statement that she would not likely associate with other African Americans, free or bound, if she were given permission to remain in the state.

The court order and reports of fire arms obtained from free persons of color, 1831, are comprised of a court order directing the two county constables, Joseph Wilson and John Rice, to obtain arms from free persons in the county; and the constables' reports, dated 1831 October 17 and 1831 October 18. The reports list the names of free African Americans found to own weapons, the type of weapon owned, and whether the weapon was confiscated.

Requisitions of Free Negroes and Slaves for Public Use, 1861-1865, are orders commanding county courts to requisition additional hands, lists of free African Americans impressed, and list of slaveholders whose slave property is subject to requisition by the state. More specifically, the records include a list of free African Americans enrolled for public service from 1861 and 1862; a list of slaveholders and number of slaves they are required to send, undated; a list of hands, Spring Creek District No. 3 (slaveholder, number of slaves between 18 and 55, number sent, and other notes, such as "hired to Government," or "unsound,") 1865 January; and a list of slaveholders whose property has been impressed impressed 30 days or 12 months, 1865 January.

Slave records, 1783, 1794, and 1850, contain a bill of sale for slaves from Francis Graves to Francis Watkins, 1783 (photocopy); a bill of sale for the sale of slaves from John H. Overstreet to Philemon Holcombe, 1794; and a letter from J.H. Martin to S.B. Wilson pertaining to an enslaved woman living in the county poorhouse, 1850.

An affidavit dated 1827 from Charles W. Friend states that two slaves in his possession, Molley and Daphney, property of Ann Woodson, are too infirm to appear on the tax rolls.

The collection also contains copies of a Commonwealth Cause, 1803, against John Andrews, a slaveholder accused of murdering an enslaved man whom he owned with a blow to the head; and the petition of the Executor of J. A. Berkeley to exempt several slaves being held in Powhatan County from the personal property tax in Prince Edward County, 1838.

Related Material

Additional records (a register of children and a cohabitation register, 1866) documenting free African Americans living in Prince Edward County before the Civil War are available digitally with searchable transcriptions through the Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory website.

Separated Material


Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Prince Edward County (Va.) Circuit Court.
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--Employment--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Indians of North America--Virginia.
  • Liberia--Emigration and Immigration--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Liberian American families--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Slaveholders--Virginia--Prince Edward County (Va.).
  • Slavery--Prince Edward County (Va.)--History.
  • Slaves--Emancipation--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Slaves--Social conditions--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Southampton insurrection, 1831.
  • Geographical Names:

  • Prince Edward County (Va.)--History.
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Affidavits--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Almshouses--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Bills of sale--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Constables--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Emancipations--Virginia--Pittsylvania County.
  • Emancipations--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Firearms--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Free negro and slave records--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Free negro and slave records--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Free negro lists--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Free negro lists--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Albemarle County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Amelia County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Bedford County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Brunswick County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Buckingham County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Charlotte County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Cumberland County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Dinwiddie County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Hanover County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Lynchburg.
  • Free papers--Virginia--New Kent County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Nottoway County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Petersburg.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Pittsylvania.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Richmond.
  • Letters (correspondence)--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Letters (correspondence)--Virginia--Prince George County.
  • Local government records--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Petitions--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Reports--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Requisitions--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Summonses--Virginia--Prince Edward County.
  • Tax and fiscal records--Virginia--Prince Edward County.

Contents List

Barcode number 1119465: Free Negro and Slave Records:

free negro lists (1821-1823, 1863); lists of free negroes delinquent on taxes (1844, 1856)

Barcode number 1203566: Free Negro and Slave Records:

certificates and registrations (1783-1856); lists of free negroes and mulattoes/free people of color (1801-1807, 1809, 1811); lists of free negroes/free people of color (1817-1820, undated); free negro lists (1857-1864, undated); lists of free negroes delinquent on taxes (1824-1863, undated)

Barcode number 1203567: Free Negro and Slave Records:

petition of Emaline to remain in Virginia (1840-1841); correspondence and reports and order to obtain arms from free persons of color (1831); requisitions of free negroes and slaves for public use (1861-1864); requisitions of slaves for Confederate defenses (1864-1865); Slave records (1783, 1794, 1850); affidavit about Molley and Daphey, slaves of Ann Woodson (1827); Commonwealth Cause, 1803, against John Andrews, a slaveholder accused of murdering an enslaved man whom he owned with a blow to the head; and the petition of the Executor of J. A. Berkeley to exempt several slaves being held in Powhatan County from the personal property tax in Prince Edward County, 1838.

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

  • Prince Edward County (Va.)--History.