Pass for free woman Harriet Lawson to visit her husband, Caleb

  • Image for Pass for free woman Harriet Lawson to visit her husband, Caleb
  • Image for Pass for free woman Harriet Lawson to visit her husband, Caleb
  • Image for Pass for free woman Harriet Lawson to visit her husband, Caleb
  • Image for Pass for free woman Harriet Lawson to visit her husband, Caleb
4 images
Subject of
Lawson, Harriet, American, born 1803
Lawson, Caleb
Medium
ink on writing paper
Dimensions
H x W: 5 × 7 15/16 in. (12.7 × 20.2 cm)
Type
legal documents
manuscripts
Place made
Frederick County, Maryland, United States, North and Central America
Date
May 21, 1832
Caption
To Visit Your Husband: Harriet Lawson’s Pass, 1832
Harriet Lawson carried this pass to visit her husband, Caleb, at work in a nearby town. As free blacks, the Lawsons could legally marry, but Maryland placed limits on their liberty. If they traveled without a pass, they could be fined $20 or sold into slavery.
The Back of Lawson’s Pass
If stopped, Lawson would face the humiliation of being physically inspected. This pass described her as: “Black, 29 yrs of age five feet high has a mole on the right side of her right eye no other perceptible mark.”
Source: Nancy Bercaw, Curator, Slavery and Freedom
Description
A free woman's pass for a free African American woman, Harriet Lawson, to visit her husband Caleb Lawson, signed in Frederick County, Maryland, on May 21, 1832. Davis Richardson is listed as the witness. The pass is on a single sheet of paper. There is handwriting in ink on both recto and verso, handwriting in pencil on verso only. The proper right side has discoloration and abrasions with loss of paper along the edge but no apparent loss of text. The ink writing from the verso side is visible faintly through to the recto side. Creases remain from the pass having been folded twice, once lengthwise and once widthwise.
Topic
African American
American South
Families
Free communities of color
Freedom
Law
United States--History--1815-1861
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number
2014.63.7
Restrictions & Rights
Public domain
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Classification
Slavery and Freedom Objects
Documents and Published Materials-Business and Legal Documents
Exhibition
Slavery and Freedom
On View
NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Concourse 3, C3 053
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

NOTE: Cataloging is an ongoing process and we may update this record as we conduct additional research and review. If you have more information about this object, please contact us at NMAAHCDigiTeam@si.edu.