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The Slave Experience: Responses to Enslavement
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Original Documents Responses to Enslavement

Suits brought by and against Frances Driggus
Cited in Northampton County, Virginia, COURT ORDERS AND MINUTES RELATING TO FREE AFRICAN AMERICANS AND INDIANS, 1654-1795. Orders, Will, etc., 1698-1710, LVA microfilm no 27a.
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Document Description
As the records of Frances Driggus' trial history show, slaves were not always brought into court under criminal charges. Although Frances was indicted for fornication in 1694 and for theft in 1699, in 1695 she entered the court as the plantiff, claiming release from her indenture. Like Mum Bett in the eighteenth century and Dred Scott in the nineteenth, Frances responded to her unjust circumstances by working through the judicial system.

30 July 1694, Whereas Frances Driggus Negro servant to John Brewer was presented by the Grand Jury for fornication and having acknowledged her said offence, receive 30 lashes ... serve her master two years.

29 July 1695, Whereas Frances Driguus a free borne Negro servant by covenant or indenture to John Brewer was presented by the Grand Jury for bastard bearing ... acknowledges her said offence ... her said master John Brewer was the only man that knew her ... which appearing to the Court soe tender a case would not presume to take her oath, said Brewer being a free born subject of the Kingdom of England and a freeholder of this County and tending his oath that he was nigh a hundred miles from home when his said servant's child was got and never knew her or was concerned with her in such a way.

28 February 1699/1700, Whereas Frances Driggus, a free Negro, was committed to this county Gaol for feloniously taking a parcel of meat from Charles Trelfo, as made oath by him, the said Trelfo or any other failing to appear to prosecute against her, she is therefore discharged.

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