First Baptist Church in Heathsville Saturday was the site of the annual commemoration of Robert Carter III’s 1791 Deed of Emancipation.
Sheila Arnold Jones, chief executive officer of “History’s Alive!” portrayed the story of Carter slave “Sarah,” who was set free in 1793, but continued to serve the family while she waited for her children to be freed.
Regina Baylor, a descendant of the Wilson and Gaskins slave families of Carter’s plantations, said she owed her professional success as a school principal to Carter, who stood firm against ridicule and legal challenges to set his slaves free.
Carter’s document “was presented to the District Court in Northumberland County in Virginia,” said Baylor. “In a Deed of Gift, Carter set out a plan for the gradual manumission of 452 enslaved people he owned on plantations in the Tidewater and Shenandoah. Carter declared that he had for some time past been convinced that ‘To retain them in slavery is contrary to the true principles of religion and justice, and that therefore it was my duty to manumit them.’”
Northern Neck Historical Society vice president the Rev. Charles Sydnor presided over the ceremony. Music was provided by the First Baptist Church choir. The event was sponsored by the Northern Neck Historical Society, Foundation for Historic Christ Church, Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library and First Baptist Church.