"Illegally held in slavery": Hester Jane Carr

In an 1836 list of enslaved women held by the firm Beasley and Wood, the last name in the list was Hester, purchased in Virginia for $750. Unlike the other names, which included a selling price, next to her name was the word “free.” 

Hester Jane Carr was born in 1816 to free parents in Accomack County, Virginia. In 1835, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a house servant for Dr. James Cockcroft in Lower Manhattan. On July 18, 1836, Carr met Nancy Daws (or Donald), who claimed to be from Columbus, Georgia, and who offered her a position as a “waiting maid.” Carr accepted and they headed south. As they approached Virginia, a state that restricted the movement of free African Americans, Daws convinced Carr “to represent herself” as Daws’s slave to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities. At Petersburg the journey ended abruptly. Carr realized “to her great horror and dismay” that Daws had “sold her to . . . [Richard] Beasley as a slave and gone off with the money received from him.”

With the assistance of attorney William C. Parker, Carr immediately filed suit in Petersburg for her freedom. Beasley refused to appear before the court, and Carr was placed in the Petersburg jail while her case was heard by the court. When news of Carr’s plight reached New York, a group of African Americans formed the New York Committee of Vigilance to raise public awareness about the despicable practice of kidnapping free African Americans and selling them into slavery. A New York Emancipator article mentioning Carr was reprinted by the London Patriot in England.

The case was continued until March 1837, when the court found Beasley not guilty and that Carr was his property. Parker immediately filed a repleader (a second legal pleading) claiming that the verdict was flawed, and the court agreed to hear the case again. The trial ended May 1837 with Carr’s death at the age of twenty-one.


Read more about Hester Jane Carr: http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/out_of_the_box/?s=hester+jane