To come back to North Carolina and be a slave again.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
Wants to Return.
We find in the Kinston Advocate, the annexed letter from a colored man formerly a slave in Wayne County, but who was emancipated some years since by the Legislature, and went to the Northern land of promise where negroes are as good as white people, and every body loved them so much – out of their sight.
The letter is addressed to Wm. T. Dortch, Esq., a member elect from Wayne County to the next Legislature. It will itself explain the objects and wishes of the writer, however defective it may be in spelling and composition: —
State of New York, Brooklyn L.I. }
september 1st 1860 }
Mr W.T. Doch sir I writ to you to let you no that I am well hoping these few lines may find you the same. I have written to you because I no you are a man I can depend on. I want to no if I pertition to come back to N.C. and be a slave again if you are a member elected this year if you will advocate it the general assembly & if you will be after gitting the consent of wayn county of her leading men you will please to writ to me & let me no what the prospect would be. Your obedient servant, D.B. Williams.
this was my old name david Bulls Williams
If this letter is agreeable I will writ again & let you no my reason for writing at all
Direct your letter to Brooklyn L.I. Nancy St No. 152
Wilmington Journal, 27 September 1860.
What would induce a free black man a former slave to want to be a slave again? What could have been the social dynamic at that time. I certainly would like to know his “reason for writing at all” !
I guess I can imagine a lot of scenarios that might induce someone to opt for what seems to us unthinkable. I have not found David Williams’ emancipation and don’t know anything else about him. Imagine, though, that he is an elderly man, or an ill one perhaps, who has found that NY is not the Promised Land, who is unable to find work, to feed or shelter himself. Presumably, having freed Williams in the first place, his former master was a decent person (within the absurd context of “decency” among slaveowners.) We tend to embrace die-on-my-feet-rather-than-live-on-my-knees, but I don’t find it difficult to imagine the hard circumstances that a free man of color might have found himself in that could have led him to view his former circumstance favorably. The issue, of course, is not the sad situation of this individual, but the propagandistic use of his plea by southern media.