Petition to the Legislature – Lunsford Lane

I then proceeded to get up a petition to the Legislature. It required much hard labor and persuasion on my part to start it; but after that, I readily obtained the signatures of the principal men in the place.—Then I went round to the members, many of whom were known to me, calling upon them at their rooms, and urging them for my sake, for humanity’s sake, for the sake of my wife and little ones, whose hopes had been excited by the idea that they were even now free; I appealed to them as husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, to vote in favor of my petition, and allow me to remain in the State long enough to purchase my family. I was doing well in business, and it would be but a short time before I could accomplish the object. Then, if it was desired, I and my wife and children, redeemed from bondage, would together seek a more friendly home, beyond the dominion of slavery. The following is the petition presented, endorsed as the reader will see:

To the Hon. General Assembly of the State of North Carolina.

Gentlemen:—The petition of Lunsford Lane humbly shews—That about five years ago, he purchased his freedom from his mistress, Mrs. Sherwood Haywood, and by great economy and industry has paid the purchase money; that he has a wife and seven children whom he has agreed to purchase, and for whom he has paid a part of the purchase money; but not having paid in full, is not yet able to leave the State, without parting with his wife and children.

Your petitioner prays your Honorable Body to pass a law, allowing him to remain a limited time within the State, until he can remove his family also. Your petitioner will give bond and good security for his good behavior while he remains. Your petitioner will ever pray, &c.

Lunsford Lane


The undersigned are well acquainted with Lunsford Lane, the petitioner, and join in his petition to the Assembly for relief.

Charles Manly,
Drury Lacy,
R.W. Haywood,
Will. Peck,
Eleanor Haywood,
W.A. Stith,
Wm. Hill,
A.B. Stith,
R. Smith,
J. Brown,
Wm. Peace,
William White,
Jos. Peace,
Geo. Simpson,
Wm. M’Pheeters,
Jno. I. Christophers,
Wm. Boylan,
John Primrose,
Fabius J. Haywood
Hugh M’Queen
D.W. Stone
Alex. J. Lawrence
T. Meredith
C.L. Hinton
A.J. Battle

Lunsford Lane, the petitioner herein, has been servant to the Executive Office since the 1st of January, 1837, and it gives me pleasure to state that, during the whole time, without exception, I have found him faithful and obedient, in keeping every thing committed to his care in good condition. From what I have seen of his conduct and demeanor, I cheerfully join in the petition for his relief.

P. Secretary to Gov. Dudley.


Raleigh, Nov. 20, 1840.

The foregoing petition was presented to the Senate. It was there referred to a committee. I knew when the committee was to report, and watched about the State House that I might receive the earliest news of the fate of my petition. I should have gone within the senate chamber, but no colored man has that permission. I do not know why, unless for fear, he may hear the name of Liberty. By and by a member came out, and as he passed me, said, “Well, Lunsford, they have laid you out; the nigger bill is killed.” I need not tell the reader that my feelings did not enter into the merriment of this honorable senator. To me, the fate of my petition was the last blow to my hopes. I had done all I could do, had said all I could say, laboring night and day, to obtain a favorable reception to my petition; but all in vain. Nothing appeared before me but I must leave the State, and leave my wife and my children never to see them more. My friends had also done all they could for me.

And why must I be banished? Ever after I entertained the first idea of being free, I had endeavored so to conduct myself as not to become obnoxious to the white inhabitants, knowing as I did their power, and their hostility to the colored people. The two points necessary in such a case I had kept constantly in mind. First, I had made no display of the little property or money I possessed, but in every way I wore as much as possible the aspect of poverty. Second, I had never appeared to be even so intelligent as I really was. This all colored people at the south, free and slaves, find it peculiarly necessary to their own comfort and safety to observe.

I should, perhaps, have mentioned that on the same day I received the notice to leave Raleigh, similar notices were presented to two other free colored people, who had been slaves; were trying to purchase their families; and were otherwise in a like situation to myself. And they took the same course I did to endeavor to remain a limited time. Isaac Hunter, who had a family with five children, was one; and WALLER FREEMAN, who had six children, was the other. Mr. Hunter’s petition went before mine; and a bill of some sort passed the Senate, which was so cut down in the Commons, as to allow him only twenty days to remain in the State. He has since, however, obtained the freedom of his family, who are living with him in Philadelphia.

Mr. Freeman’s petition received no better fate than mine. His family were the property of Judge BADGER, who was afterwards made a member of Mr. Harrison’s cabinet. When Mr. Badger removed to Washington, he took with him among other slaves this family; and Freeman removed also to that city. After this, when Mr. B. resigned his office, with the other members of the cabinet under President Tyler, he entered into some sort of contract with Freeman, to sell him this family, which he left at Washington, while he took the rest of his slaves back to Raleigh. Freeman is now endeavoring to raise money to make the purchase.

It was now between two and three months to the next session of the court; and I knew that before or at that time I must leave the State. I was bound to appear before the court; but it had been arranged between my lawyer and the prosecuting attorney, that if I would leave the State, and pay the costs of court, the case should be dropped, so that my bondsmen should not be involved. I therefore concluded to stay as long as I possibly could, and then leave. I also determined to appeal to the kindness of the friends of the colored man in the North, for assistance, though I had but little hope of succeeding in this way. Yet it was the only course I could think of, by which I could see any possible hope of accomplishing the object.

I had paid Mr. Smith six hundred and twenty dollars; and had a house and lot worth $500, which he had promised to take when I should raise the balance. He gave me also a bill of sale of one of my children, Laura, in consideration of two hundred and fifty dollars of the money already paid; and her I determined to take with me to the North. The costs of court which I had to meet, amounted to between thirty and forty dollars, besides the fee of my lawyer.

Biography, History,

Lane, Lunsford. The Narrative of Lunsford Lane, Formerly of Raleigh, N.C. Embracing an Account of His Early Life, the Redemption by Purchase of Himself and Family from Slavery, and His Banishment from the Place of His Birth for the Crime of Wearing a Colored Skin. Self Published. 1842.

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