Despite their family’s care.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Nancy Midgett v. Willoughby McBryde, 48 NC 21 (1855).

“Nancy Midgett, is a white woman, but her two children are mulattoes begotten by a negro father.”  The Currituck County Court ordered that children be bound to Willoughby McBryde.  Midgett presented evidence that for the last three years she had been living near her father in a house he built for her; that he had taken charge of her children and kept them diligently and industriously employed; that he was himself an honest, respectable and industrious man, well able to take care of her and her children and willing to do so; and that she herself had, during the last three years, behaved orderly and industriously.  Accordingly, contended Midgett’s counsel, the children did not fall within the category of those liable to be bound out by the County Court.  The trial judge disagreed, upheld the County Court’s action, and Midgett appealed.

The North Carolina Supreme Court held that the County Court had power to bind out all free base-born children of color, without reference to the occupation or condition of the mother. The provision of the statute that refers to the occupation or employment of the parents is confined to cases of free negroes and mulattoes whose children are”legitimate.” “In such cases, if the parents have no honest or industrious occupation, the children may be bound out.  These considerations do not arise when the child is a bastard.” Judgment affirmed.