Paul Cuffe was born a free man in Massachusetts. His mother was Native American and his father was of West African Ashanti lineage. An entrepreneur and philanthropist, Cuffe gained wealth as owner of an international shipping company. Despite his success, as an African American he was viewed as a second-class citizen and denied equal rights. As a taxpayer, Paul Cuffe petitioned the Massachusetts legislature in 1780 and demanded his right to vote. Free and enslaved African Americans petitioned for freedom, equality, and justice through the courts and state legislatures. They sought to assert their rights, promote their identity as citizens of the new nation, and challenge their status as enslaved people.
Source: Nancy Bercaw, Curator, Slavery and Freedom
A petition to the court of Bristol County, Massachusetts, in Taunton written by an unidentified hand and signed by John Cuffe and Paul Cuffe. The text is handwritten in black ink on the front and back sides of the same sheet of paper. The petition is in regards to taxation by the state upon the signatories, who are of Indian descent and are arguing they are therefore not subject to such taxation.
A payment voucher consisting of a one page document with embossed lettering and handwriting in black ink on both sides. The text begins with "Hartford March 20, 1783" and concerns payment to the Revolutionary War soldier Prince Simbo.
The payment voucher appears to have been filled out by Eleazer Wales on behalf of Prince Simbo. A mark appears with "his" above it and "mark" below it, and "Prince" to the left and "Simbo" to the right of it. Wales' signature appears to the bottom left of the type.
A bill of sale for Peter, a seven-year old enslaved boy identified as a servant. The child was sold by Martha Avery of Gilmanton, New Hampshire to Luther Smith of Plainfield, Connecticut. Avery states that she purchased Peter from "Sollon Avery of Norwich" and that the boy is to remain enslaved until Peter is twenty-six years old and then he should be emancipated. The document is handwritten in black ink and reads:
[Know all Men by Those Presents that I Martha Avery of Gilmanton in the State of New Hampshire in the Consideration of Ten pounds Lawfull [sic] Money to me paid by Luther Smith of Plainfield in the State of Connecticut have bargained and Sold and Do hereby Give grant and Assign to him the Said Luther Smith my Negro boy a Servant Called Peter of About Seven years of Age which I Purchased of Sollon Avery of Norwich to have and to hold the Said Negro boy with his Apperal [sic] Until he is Twenty Six Years of Age, and I covenant and Engage to and with the Said Luther Smith and his heirs and Assigns that the said Negro Shall be a Slave till he is Twenty Six years of Age and then to be free and I will warrant and Defend the Said Negro Against the Claims of all Persons.]
The bill of sale is signed and given a seal by Martha Avery on February 20, 1782. The original date states the thirteenth but has been crossed out multiple times and the [twentieth] written above. On the bottom left, the document is witnessed by Isaac Smith and Mary Smith. In a different hand and darker ink, underneath Martha Avery's signature and seal, is written [My / Grandmother / Martha Smith]. The same writing can be seen on the left edge of the paper, written perpendicular [When Peter was 21 years he bought his / Free]. On the back of the document, written in the center in the original hand is [A Bill of Sail / of Peter]. Underneath written in the second hand, [had only one / Name in that Day.] Written above this, upside down, in the second hand, [A Relic of / Olden Time, / it is now, / 1869.] The document has two distinct crease marks vertically, and an additional crease line horizontally, showing the paper had been folded in thirds and then in half.