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Heathsville in Northumberland County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Freedom for Slaves of Robert Carter III

 
 
Freedom for Slaves of Robert Carter III Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, November 5, 2016
1. Freedom for Slaves of Robert Carter III Marker
Inscription.  On 5 Sept. 1791, Robert Carter III (1728-1804), one of the wealthiest men in the United States, filed a deed of manumission at the Northumberland County Courthouse. This document eventually freed more than 500 enslaved African Americans owned by Carter in several Virginia counties. “To retain them in Slavery,” Carter wrote, “is contrary to the true principles of Religion & Justice.” The deed, structured to withstand resistance by Carter’s heirs and neighbors, liberated slaves gradually in small groups. Because children were freed when they reached adulthood, the manumission took decades to complete. Many of the freed people became tenants on Carter’s land.
 
Erected 2016 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number O-73.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Department of Historic Resources series list. A significant historical date for this entry is September 5, 1791.
 
Location. 37° 55.056′ N, 76° 28.343′ W. Marker is in Heathsville, Virginia, in Northumberland County. Marker is at the intersection of Northumberland Highway (U.S. 360) and Judicial Place, on the right when traveling east on Northumberland
Freedom for Slaves of Robert Carter III Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, November 5, 2016
2. Freedom for Slaves of Robert Carter III Marker
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Highway. It is at the Northumberland Courthouse. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Heathsville VA 22473, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. World War I Memorial (here, next to this marker); Rice’s Hotel / Hughlett’s Tavern (a few steps from this marker); Korean and Vietnam Wars Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Northumberland County Confederate Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); World War II Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Northumberland Courthouse Square (within shouting distance of this marker); Northumberland County Jail (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. Stephen’s Parish (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Heathsville.
 
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
 
Also see . . .
1. Wikipedia Entry for Robert Carter III. “Carter scandalized neighbors further by joining Morattico Baptist Church, a mixed congregation of white and black, free and slave. Carter knew he risked persecution, for Eleazar Clay, another wealthy man, had his life threatened after conversion, and during the three weeks preceding his own baptism Carter attended two different services that were attacked by armed mobs which included Revolutionary War veterans.” (Submitted on November 6, 2016.) 

2. The Abolitionist That Time Forgot. NPR story about Robert Carter III and his biographer Andrew Levy. “Carter was neither a romantic or idealist; in fact, his decision to emancipate
“Robert Carter III of Nomini Hall” image. Click for full size.
Oil by Thomas Hudson, photo via Wikipedia Commons, 1753
3. “Robert Carter III of Nomini Hall”
his slaves was as much an economic decision as it was an ethical one. As early as the 1770s, he and his wife had deduced that there were easier ways to turn a buck. The Carters could reap more profit by freeing the slaves and renting out the land to them. However, their decision did not sit well with their sons-in-law (who resented losing a large part of their inheritance) and neighbors who feared a possible rebellion on their own plantations. And while the majority of his slaves were patient and waited for their turn to come, they too caused headaches for Carter. In addition to never-ending negotiations with his own freed slaves, he learned that slaves from nearby estates were trying to pass as his own via forged documentation.” (Submitted on November 6, 2016.) 

3. Virginia Lawyer article providing additional details. The date the marker was installed (September 10, 2016) is mentioned at the beginning of the article (Submitted on February 24, 2017, by Kevin Vincent of Arlington, Virginia.) 
 
Northumberland County’s Antebellum Courthouse image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, November 5, 2016
4. Northumberland County’s Antebellum Courthouse
Wikipedia: “Northumberland County has two courthouses: an antebellum building constructed before the Civil War and a new building constructed in the late 1990s behind the older structure. The county courts (Circuit Court, General District Court, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court), along with the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Commonwealth's Attorney, both commonwealth constitutional officers, are located in the new building. The Commissioner of Revenue and the County Treasurer, both commonwealth constitutional officers, have offices in the older building.”
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 3, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 6, 2016, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 653 times since then and 142 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on November 6, 2016, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Sep. 29, 2022