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Part 1: 1450-1750
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Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

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Historical Document
Felix's petition
1773

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Click here for the text of this historical document.

On January 6, 1773, the first of five appeals within a two-year period, asking for a range of rights, was submitted by black petitioners to Governor Hutchinson and the General Court of Massachusetts. Though written on behalf of "many Slaves, living in the Town of Boston, and other Towns in the Province," the petition contained the lone signature of one Felix.

The petitioners make no specific suggestions, fearing that "[i]t would be impudent, if not presumptuous in us" to do so. Instead, they appeal to the "Wisdom, Justice, and Goodness" of the legislature.

Although cautious, even supplicatory, in tone, the petition speaks to the desperation of the "unhappy State and Condition" in which slaves live: "let their behavior be what it will, neither they, nor their Children to all Generations, shall ever be able to do, or to possess and enjoy any Thing, no, not even Life itself, but in a Manner as the Beasts that perish."

The petition was soon published as a pamphlet, along with letters by "A Lover of True Liberty" and "The Sons of Africa." Although there had been numerous cases of enslaved blacks seeking freedom through the state courts, this was the first public protest to a legislature made by blacks in New England.




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Related Entries:
Petition 1/13/1777
Abigail Adams's letter to her husband





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