A Black Women's History of the United States (OBOC 2021-2022)

Chapter Three: Belinda’s Petition for Independence, 1760–1820

For Additional Reading:

Alfred L. Brophy, “Forum on Slavery and Universities: Introduction” Slavery & Abolition, vol. 39, no. 2 (April 2018): 229-235. The entire issue of this journal is devoted to this topic.

Nicholas Draper, “British Universities and Caribbean Slavery,” Social and Economic Studies, vol. 68, no. 3-4 (Sept. 2019): 127-257.

Charles B. Dew, “David Ross and the Oxford Iron Works: A Study of Industrial Slavery in the Early Nineteenth Century South.”

The William and Mary  Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 2 (April 1974); 189-224.

Jeroen Dewulf, “Pinkster: An Atlantic Creole Festival in a Dutch-American Context” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 126, no. 501

(Summer 2013): 245-271.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (NY: 37Ink, Atria, 2017). CSN Henderson library has a copy of the book.

Chapter 3 Discussion/Essay/Reflection Prompts:

1. Chapter Three discusses the use of reparations of the time period between 1760-1820. Berry and Gross detail multiple cases, supported by evidence, that show that the “first set of reparations in America were given to enslavers” (52). How do these accounts differ from the contemporary discussion of reparations? Discuss another related policy, the Fugitive Slave Act: How did it affect the enslaved and those who assisted their efforts toward freedom? Address the blatant disrespect of human life of the country’s “first set of reparations” and of the Fugitive Slave Act. Enlist the findings of the following websites to inform your discussion.

Fugitive Slave Act 1793

National Archives

1793 law comparison between 1851 law


2. How did Black women (and men) utilize dress and appearance as tools for escape? Name a couple of accounts that illustrate these attempts. What outcomes were these efforts met with?


3. Did Canada provide greater or lesser freedom to Black women of this time period? Discuss the comparisons offered by Berry and Gross of both countries’ treatment of the enslaved. Use the following websites for assistance in forming your responses:

Black Loyalist Communities

British pass issued to Black loyalist

Canada's Digital Collection

Black Loyalist Heritage Centre

4. Discuss the difference between the terms “enslaver” and “slaveholder” (56). Why is the distinction important? How has the existence of “slaveholders” been used to justify enslavement?


5. The creativity and self-liberation of Black women are discussed in Chapter Three. Name some of the examples given by Berry and Gross as well as those mentioned on the following website and discuss how these expressions of identity have endured:

Pinkster Festival