Lot 4 of 489:
Free Black woman refused residence in Rhode Island  

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Free Black woman refused legal residence in Providence during the War of 1812 - Manuscript Document
Providence, Rhode Island

Manuscript Document, "At a Town Council holden by Adjournment on...June 17, 1814" 2pp.

One month before the British burned Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812, five members of the Providence, Rhode Island Town Council considered two applications for legal residence – from Ann Perry, a 19 year-old free ”Black Girl” orphaned by her father’s death in a town 24 miles away, and from John Williams, a young Boston sailor, son of Irish immigrants, recently discharged from service aboard a US Navy frigate, then working on rigging aboard vessels in the harbor. (Coincidentally, both were then boarding with a teen-aged girl whose descendant was horror fiction master H.P.Lovecraft.) Having “examined” both applicants, the Council “rejected” their applications.

After the Revolution, to avoid an influx of poor emigrants, many New England towns set strict requirements for legal residence - individuals must be born, employed, or own property within town limits. Those born or recently employed elsewhere – often indigent potential drains on local government financial aid – had to apply to the Town Council for approval to live in the city. In Providence, as elsewhere, free Blacks were invariably rejected, though , apparently, poor Irishmen fared no better. Ann Perry’s case was not helped by having boarded with a local Doctor who had been prosecuted by the authorities for unlawfully giving shelter to two other "transient black people" in violation of city laws “relative to the admission of Strangers."

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