by Lisa Y. Henderson
Miles Howard was born enslaved and, when he was about 11 years old, was brought to Halifax and sold to Thomas Burgess, a prominent attorney in the Halifax area. Burgess evidently took a liking to the young Miles and made sure that he learned a trade as a barber. Around 1818, Howard took a wife by consent of both his and her masters. Howard was emancipated very shortly afterwards. Burgess sold him property in Halifax in 1825 and more property later. In 1832, Burgess wrote to Senator Mangum regarding a free man of color who was a barber and a musician. The free man had purchased children from a former master. He had not been able to free them due to a law prohibiting this. He wished to move his family to a state where they could be freed and not held as his slaves. Evidently, nothing came from this request, as Howard later died in Halifax.
Burgess, in his will, gave “his worthy and excellent friend Miles Howard the Barber two lots in Halifax, now occupied by said Miles.” In 1838, in an act of emancipation the four children and slaves of Miles Howard were set free, and the family was baptized by a Catholic priest in Halifax. Between 1842 and 1846, Matilda died, and Howard married Caroline Valentine. The two had children who were also baptized Catholic. Howard handled various land transactions and was a sound businessman in Halifax. He died in 1857 without leaving a will. A lawsuit ensued, with the children of his first marriage seeking a share of his property and the children of his second marriage fighting them. The case went to North Carolina Superior Court, which ruled in favor of the children of the second marriage, because the first marriage was a slave marriage and not legal in the eyes of the law.
Adapted from http://www.nchistoricsites.org/halifax/people.htm