by Megan Schiffres
Over 70 years before the Emancipation Proclamation ordered the freedom of all slaves in the U.S., Virginia plantation owner and slave-master Robert Carter III wrote the “Deed of Gift,” the largest known manumission in American history which freed five hundred of his slaves in 1791.
“I have for some time past been convinced that to retain them in slavery is contrary to the true principals of religion and justice,” wrote Carter in his “Deed of Gift.”
The Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society on Saturday, August 18, celebrated the 10th annual commemoration of Robert Carter III’s Deed at the First Baptist Church, 3585 Courthouse Road, Heathsville.
The commemoration included a historical impersonation of Robert Carter III by Charles Belfield, vice president of the Northern Neck Historical Society and was expanded this year to include Pathways to Freedom, a discussion of the different routes slaves took to reach emancipation in Virginia.
“It’s a tribute to the importance of African Americans’ contribution to everyday life and culture in America,” said Kathy Schuder, executive director of the Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society.
The event included a screening of “The Hail-Storm,” a documentary which explored the life of Richmond restaurateur and former slave John Dabney.
“Just as delicately as John Dabney fused his culinary concoctions, this film narrated by his son, or in the words of his son, fused both the sweet and bitter elements of slavery, the different pathways to freedom and the aftermath of slavery,” said Thomas Duckenfield, a descendant of the Thompson and Newman families manumitted by Carter…..