The Resource Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records

Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records

Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864)
Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records
Inclusive dates
1783-1865 (bulk 1801-1864)
  • 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 certificates of registration, or registers, 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)
  • These 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. 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 photocopies 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 a 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
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Biographical or historical data
  • 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.
  • A law passed in 1782 by the state 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 in 1793 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 his 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.
Cataloging source
Location of other archival 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.
Prince Edward County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records
These items came to the Library of Virginia in a transfer of court papers from Prince Edward County
  • The Library of Virginia
Governing access note
There are no restrictions
Immediate source of acquisition
Prince Edward County Circuit Court
Reproduction note
In part, photocopies.
Terms governing use
There are no restrictions.
Type of unit
cu. ft. (3 boxes)



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Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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