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Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail
Site #13
Samuel Penhallow House
Washington Street, Strawbery Banke Museum

Penhallow house There were a few free black people in colonial Portsmouth, and increasing numbers were freed after the Revolution. To certify their status and prove their exemption from slave curfew laws, free black people secured freedom papers from their former owners. Some also registered with the town clerk or a justice of the peace, such as Samuel Penhallow who lived in this house.

Black people attained freedom in varied ways: through the will of a deceased owner; by living owners, sometimes in recognition of service in the Revolution; by buying their own freedom; and self-emancipation by running away. Status at birth followed status of the mother. Lesha Webb, a free black woman, married an enslaved man named Caesar and eventually recorded with the town that she and her eight children were free persons. In 1778, when North Church minister Ezra Stiles freed his enslaved man Newport, they registered the emancipation with the town clerk and with Justice Penhallow. Newport chose the surname Freeman. Post-Revolutionary emancipations created the first significant free black populations in America.

Free black Yankees in Portsmouth made homes where white convention allowed: as live-in paid help in white households, as boarders in tiny waterfront lanes, in their own households at the outer edges of the compact part of town, or in scattered rural clusters.

Now you can buy the whole BLACK HERITAGE GUIDE

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