The slaves who sued for freedom

I n New England, suits by enslaved African-Americans date back to Colonial times. The cases were frequently based on a slave’s claim of white or Native American parentage. But as revolutionary ideals took hold in the 1770s and ’80s, many enslaved plaintiffs began to mount more ambitious arguments that all people, black or white, had a “natural right” to freedom. That was the basis of a successful lawsuit involving a black man named Quock Walker, who won his freedom in 1781. The man who considered himself Walker’s owner appealed to the Supreme Judicial … [Read more...]