1838 Deed for Slaves Sold by Theophilus Freeman Slave Dealer from 12 Years a Slave
Theophilus Freeman. Deed of two enslaved men sold by the infamous slave dealer from Twelve Years a Slave. Notarized manuscript copy signed on the same day by notary public William Young Lewis, with his embossed seal, and then certified a week later by the recorder of St. Helena Parish, Samuel Leonard. 2 pages, 13 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, plus integral blank with docketing; separation along top horizontal fold with short tape repairs, other minor wear. New Orleans, LA, 27 November 1838
In Solomon Northrup's famous narrative Twelve Years a Slave (see lot 5) and in the recent film adaptation, Theophilus Freeman (circa 1806-1855) played a central role. In 1841, shortly after Northrup's capture into slavery in Washington, he was sent down to a New Orleans slave market run by Freeman, who sold him under a false name. Offered here is a notarized copy of another slave deed executed by the same Freeman, dated less than three years earlier.
This document records the sale by Freeman to Merritt Grandison Kemp of St. Helena, LA "the following slaves, to wit: William Rolling, a negro man, aged about twenty years, valued at the sum of one thousand dollars, and Dennis Ward, a negro man, aged about nineteen years, valued at the sum of twelve hundred dollars, both recently imported into this state and lawfully owned by the said vendor."
It may be impossible to know whether William Rolling and Dennis Ward were legally sold, or if they had been captured as Solomon Northrup had been. Certainly, the statement "both recently imported into this state" is an ominous sign. We have been unable to trace the fates of either men. The purchaser Merritt G. Kemp (1816-1863) was a young man at the time, only 22 years old. He remained in St. Helena until his death in 1863, but did not still own any men of the appropriate age in the 1860 census.