Letter from Nancy to her children (September 17, 1824)


Nancy was an enslaved woman in Boone, Kentucky, who dictated this letter—presumably because she didn’t learn to write—to her unidentified enslaver requesting that it be sent to her former enslaver, Thomas Davis, so that he could deliver it to her children Ben Oliver and Milly in Orange County, Virginia. This letter powerfully illustrates the way slavery tore apart families.


Boone County, Kentucky, September 17, 1824 

Dear sir, I make free to direct this letter to you, that the persons for whom it is intended, may have an opportunity of seeing it and having it, if they are living and convenient to you or in that neighborhood, as its not known by the writer, nor by the person requesting the letter; whether they live with your Father yourself or only one of the family at present. This is by the request of old Nany, a slave who formerly belonged to our grandfather [illegible], it is to her two children Ben Oliver, and Milly. My Children I live at a great distance from you and probably I shall never see you anymore and this is to let you know that I have not forgotten you. I often think of you, and should be glad to see you, but if we cannot see each other, we shall desire to hear from each other. I am yet living to the place where Master Jeremiah died, with his youngest son, who treats me well and will not let me suffer for anything and through many I am tolerable well at present, though last winter I was afflicted with [illegible], I am very old and must expect afflictions as all are subject to them, but for one of my age I enjoys good health, and desire that these lives may find you both enjoying, the same blessing. I heard from Berry about a month ago he was well and talks of coming to see me at Christmas. O that I could see you all but if I cannot fairwell, remember me to all that enquire after me be certain to send me a letter. No more… your loving Mother till death. 

Nancy [to her] Children 

APA Citation:
Nancy. Letter from Nancy to her children (September 17, 1824). (2021, May 25). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Nancy. "Letter from Nancy to her children (September 17, 1824)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (25 May. 2021). Web. 19 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, May 25
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