Sometimes it takes awhile …
After almost 200 years (well, 183 years to be precise), a slave who unwittingly changed law via a NC Supreme Court case, is now honored with a historical marker.
You can read about this bit of history via Slave who killed white overseer in 1834 honored with NC marker (Josh Shaffer, News and Observer)
Details on the case, the location of the marker and the text on it can be accessed here.
It was Gaston’s conclusion that the law must treat slaves as any other human in such a case. He stated, "If the passions of the slave be excited into unlawful violence by the inhumanity of a master . . . is it a conclusion of law that such passion must spring from diabolical malice?" The decision was praised by abolitionists, covered by newspapers around the country, and cited as precedent in other legal cases. Will’s bold act of resistance served to humanize slaves in the eyes of the law.
The Virginia Law Review has an article on it (FREE via JSTOR), The State of North Carolina v. Negro Will, a Slave of James S. Battle; A Cause Celebre of Ante-Bellum Times, and Columbia’s Law school has transcribed the verdict.
More on the case is available via Reports of Cases at Law, Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of North Carolina: From December Term 1834 to December Term 1839, Volume 1 By North Carolina. Supreme Court, Thomas Pollock Devereux, William Horn Battle.
It is never too late to recognize the contributions our ancestors made!
Have your ancestors been honored via markers, plaques, etc., for historical contributions to their community or state?
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