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Slaves Petition the Massachusetts Legislature (short version)

Throughout the revolutionary era, scores of slaves signed petitions that linked their demands for freedom with the cause of American independence. Below is the text of one such petition presented to the Massachusetts legislature.

January 13, 1777 

[We understand] that [we] have, in common with all other men, a natural & unalienable right to that freedom, which [God] has [given] equally [to] all and which [we] have never [given up in] any contract or agreement

But [we] were unjustly dragged, by the cruel hand of power, from [our] dearest friends, & some of [us] even torn from the embraces of [our] tender parents… & brought [here] to be sold like beasts of burden, & like them condemned to slavery for life— 

…Every principle from which America has acted in the course of her unhappy difficulties with Great-Britain, pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favor of [us]. 

[We] therefore humbly [beg] your honors, to [consider] this petition, & [pass a law] whereby [slaves] may be restored to the enjoyment of that freedom which is the natural right of all men--& their children (who were born in this Land of Liberty) may not be held as slaves after they arrive at the age of twenty one years. 

Lancaster Hill 

Peter Bess 

Brister Slenten 

Prince Hall 

Jack Purpont (his mark) 

Nero Suneto (his mark) 

Newport Symner (his mark) 

Job Lock

Source | Adapted from Herbert Aptheker, A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, Vol. 1 (1951).
Creator | Various
Item Type | Pamphlet/Petition
Cite This document | Various, “Slaves Petition the Massachusetts Legislature (short version),” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 9, 2023,

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