|Date(s):||September 26, 1831|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
|Rating:||4 (1 votes)|
On September 26, 1831, Lucetta Morse finally confirmed her status as a free woman of color in the county of Brunswick, Virginia. In order for her freedom to be established, Lucetta was subjected to an intense physical examination of her body. The commissioner looked for any distinguishing or identifying marks and recorded all of his findings in a ledger which contained similar information about the other free people of color in the county. Lucetta was given register number three hundred and thirty-three and was then reviewed again against the commissioner's original findings.
Brunswick County, Virginia was no different from the rest of the South. As did many regions of Virginia, the Carolinas and Louisiana, Brunswick County was home to a substantial free African American population. In Brunswick County, free blacks lived amongst whites and enslaved blacks and had an active role in the local economy. Though there was a significant free black population in Brunswick, the free people had to be documented by the county so that their status as free people of color was on file. Their claim of freedom had to be checked against their file and then filed yet once again.
As aforementioned, the county of Brunswick kept detailed logs of their free people, noting gender; approximate age; any marks, scars, or burns on their body; the terms under which they attained their freedom; their height; and the complexion of their skin. The Register of Free Negroes and also of Dower Slaves is a compilation of such records. Throughout the south there were periodic crackdowns on free blacks, with officials demanding identification papers and jailing those without proper documents. In some cities all entering free persons of color were required to register with the authorities. This requirement of registration and proper identification for free people of color was due to the tendency of runaway slaves to attempt to seek refuge in urban centers, and is more than likely what was taking place in Brunswick County.