A Vendue is essentially a public auction of items to be sold. Often times, after a person died, they would Will many of their valuables, the remainder of their estate being sold at a public Vendue to the highest bidder. This is the case for the vendue of Hendricus Dubois. This document shows the items sold, including one slave named Bett, her selling price, and the person who purchased her. It is important to note that this document helps to illustrate the practical application of a law that was passed March 8th, 1773. The Colony of New York, still under the dominion of British rule, passed an Act that required all Slave owners to feed, clothe, and maintain their slaves in order to keep them from begging for the necessities of life on the streets. As slaves were considered property like anything else, their masters were accountable for their behavior. In addition, this document also illustrates the rare practice of allowing a slave to choose her own master. In this document we learn that Bett is given the opportunity to choose not to be the property of Edward Lounsberry, but instead serve Peter Elting, certainly an atypical occurrence.
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Following a person's death, inventories were often used in order to establish the exact contents of the estate, which would subsequently be sold off at public auction. The proceeds of these auctions would often be divided amongst the heirs or executors. Aside from descriptions of the items and the quantities of each, the inventory also provides the purported market values, or going rates' so-to-speak of each item. In this way, we can gain a more tangible perspective on the value of an African slave in relation to other material possessions, during the time period in which the inventories were compiled. Further, in conjunction with the use of other documents such as wills, vendues, and bills of sales, it can be possible to decipher the fate of individual slaves through the use of inventories. Such is the case in this inventory of Charles Hardenbergh's estate, in which a "Negro Wench," named Isabella, who would later be known as Sojourner Truth the renowned abolitionist and activist, is listed at an assessed value of one-hundred dollars. Born Isabella, the ninth child of slaves Betsy and James in Hurley, New York, Sojourner took on her new name at the age of 46. Born into subjugation, Sojourner Truth came from meager beginnings. After an abolishionist couple in Rifton, New York, the Van Wagener's, gave her freedom, she became one of the nation's most vocal anti-slavery lecturers and remains a symbol for equality and women's rights to this day.
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As part of an estate, slaves were often bequeathed in a Last Will and Testament to the heirs of the estate. These documents are useful when tracking the fate of specific African slaves. Along with Inventories, Vendues, and Bills of Sale, it is possible to gain better understanding of a slave's path through existence. While not in the majority, some slaves were freed or manumitted at a person's death. Such was the case with James Murphy, born into slavery as the son of Jane, a mulatto "wench".
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