He desires to change.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
To the Honorable the Senate & House of Representatives of the State of North Carolina, Greeting
The petition of your servant, who is a free man of color, humbly shews that he is desirous of changing his status and of selling himself to Mr. D. H. Bridgers, so as to reduce himself to a state of slavery and that he may have the protection and support of a master, would humbly pray your honorable body that you would pass some law that would enable him to give legal effect and force to his desire, And your Petitioner will always pray &c Abisha X Locus
State of North Carolina, Wayne County } I Jno. R. Hood an acting Justice of the Pace for Wayne County hereby certify that Abisha Locus, a free man of color and a resident of Wayne County voluntarily came before me and signed the above petition of his own free will & accord. Given under my hand and seal this 31st day of August. /s/ John R. Hood
General Assembly Session Records, August-September 1861, box 1, North Carolina State Archives.
In the 1860 census in Cross Roads, Wayne County: B. Locas, 50, distiller, Jonas Capps, 18, and Tilissa Capps, 16, in the household of Henderson Bridgers, 33. No occupation is listed for Bridgers, but he claimed $12,000 in real property and $12,250 in personal property.
There has to be a deep reason for anyone asking this – what was it in this case?
I don’t know. I’ve posted other examples of this phenomenon, and there seems to have been an uptick in petitions to self-enslave in the early years of the Civil War. (Perhaps in response to specific legislation passed in 1861 by the NC General Assembly to better enable — if not encourage — such petitions.) Many petitioners were women, and at least one cited her marriage to an enslaved man as the reason for her request. Despite the successes that pepper this blog, North Carolina’s free of color were generally grindingly poor and were increasingly boxed-in economically in the antebellum period. Reaching an understanding with a sympathetic white person, though frighteningly fraught with risk, must have appealed to some.