Today’s Document from the National Archives is a fascinating petition from a free woman of color in New Orleans named Marguerite Thompson, who asked the U.S. Provisional Court to confirm her status as a free person in June 1863.
I tweeted a short analysis of the petition and Storified the tweets. Here they are:
One aspect of Marguerite Thompson’s petition that drew my attention is the fact that she submitted her petition to the Judge Charles Peabody’s U.S. Provisional Court (USPC). This court was established by the United States after Union forces seized New Orleans in 1862. Legal scholar John Gordan writes that “the most legally dramatic of the Provisional Court’s activities was its granting of manumission petitions by slaveholders.” (See Gordan’s article, “New York Justice in Civil War Louisiana,” Judicial Notice 8, p. 20)
As Gordan reveals, one of those slaveholders who appealed to Judge Peabody to manumit his slaves was the lawyer Thomas Jefferson Durant, who later represented Rose Herera in her quest to recover her children.
You can read more about Rose Herera’s and other enslaved and freed women’s own efforts to use the courts to secure freedom for themselves and their families during the Civil War in my book, Beyond Freedom’s Reach.