Original Author: Jane Webb
Created: 1722
Medium: Handwritten legal petition

Jane Webb Petition

Jane Webb, a free Black woman who had indentured herself for seven years to a white man named Thomas Savage in order to ensure freedom for her enslaved husband and their children, petitions the Northampton County in this 1722 document. Webb argues that Savage was breaking a contract by refusing to release from indentured servitude three of her children—Dinah, Daniel, and Frances. Those three were “born in Lawfull Wedlock,” according to the petition, and were being kept in servitude beyond the terms of an agreement Webb had made with Savage some twenty years earlier. She pleaded with the court not to “Enslave” these children.

Savage had broken his original agreement, which stipulated that Webb’s husband and bound children would be freed in 1711, and any children born after that date would have no obligation to Savage whatsoever. Savage delayed the case until January 1723, when the court dismissed Webb’s petition on the grounds that it was “frivolous.”