mulatto in history

Lately I’ve been perusing articles tagged ‘biracial’ and ‘mulatto’ on a research website.  I’ve found some interesting stuff (not this particular photo tho). Most interesting to me in this story is the white woman/black man combo, the fact that Rose has no last name, and the description of mulattoes as “children of such unnatural and inordinate copulation.” I think we’re still combating this notion, just as blacks are still combating the “soulless, less than human” one.  


On the petition of Rose the Mullato Daughter of Mary Davis of ye Province of Maryland against Mr. Henry Darnall about her Freedom Consideration.

Rose Davis is a mulatto woman, born to indentured servant Mary Davis from London and a former slave, Dominggoe, who were married at the time of Rose’s birth.

Rose Davis has been bound-out until the age of 31. On Aug. 11, 1715, Rose turned 31 and was not given her freedom as prescribed by the Laws of Assembly in the Province of Maryland.

The law states that “Issues of such or children of such unnatural and inordinate copulation, shall be servants till they arrive at the age of Thirty One Years.” Her owner Henry Darnall, of this County, has determined that he will not release her from servitude and will keep her as a slave for life.

With so many interracial relationships in the Province between whites and African Americans, the laws were especially harsh against white women and African-American men, in order to keep a larger free African-American population from rising in the Province of Maryland.There are numerous stories and court cases in all counties of Maryland where free people were unjustly held as slaves because of their color and inability to fight against wealthy planters. There also were lawsuits brought against owners because parents felt servitude was harsh, or that their children were being abused. In the case of these children of two races, the females suffered as they could be used as courtesans not unlike the quadroons and octaroons of New Orleans and the mulattoes of Africa.

Maryland manumission records for the Darnells and their cousins / in-laws the Carrolls, show that providing freedom to slaves or mulattoes, regardless of their status, was rare.

What evidence could Rose bring to the courts that would help her win her freedom? Would the family who loved her be there to support her claim?

Only one could make this claim to her birthright and loved her more than anyone: her mother, Mary Davis. Mary a former indentured servant, provided Rose with the family Bible to use as evidence for the upcoming trial.

On 13 March 1716, the Court proceeded with Rose’s petition and her counsel provided the following opening statement:

“The petition hereby showeth that your petitioner being a baptized Mulatto descended by the mother of Christian Race as appears from the evidence of her said mother is ready to provide as well as other testimony’s if need be to confirm the same, and being arrived to the age of thirty one years the 11 day of August 1715, at the time she supposes the servitude imposed in such unhappy issue, expires. They humbly pray the benefit by Law allowed to those in her unhappy circumstances and that she may accordingly receive a free manumission from the said servitude which hand-scribed evidence mentioned in ye petition follows, in the words of her mother.”

“I Mary Davis of Richard Davis, of Mark Lane in the City of London in England where I was born do give this Bible unto my son Thomas, begotten in wedlock on my body by a Negroe called Dominggoe, once a servant to Joseph Tilley of Hunting Creek in Calvert County where I was married to him…. that you may know she my said daughter came of a Christian race by her mother, a true copy take out of the aforesaid Bible.”

What Mary really said was she had come to love and marry a former slave, entered into holy wedlock because of their love for one another and gave birth to two free children. Or so they thought.

On the 8th day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1716, the decision of the Court was read:

“Mature deliberation It is thereupon considered by the Justices that the said Rose the Mulatto and the petitioner aforesaid, serve during LIFE as a slave and that her master, Mr. Henry Darnall pay court fees.”

Rose Davis was one of many family members who could not be rescued from slavery, even in accordance with the laws.

Janice Hayes-Williams. “Our legacy: Mulatto children often kept as slaves despite laws at time.”Maryland Gazette. 2006.

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10 thoughts on “mulatto in history

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Tiff. I enjoyed reading it and learn something new just about everytime you share. This was very, very interesting….

  2. I would like more information on the Mulatto child born of a slave and have the name of her slave owner and maybe find some information on them
    My grand mother was Mulatto but no information about her Parents was found. her name was Auzzie or osie McKenzie she married henery Clay Brown her birth is 1880

  3. I would like to know whether or not you have the> I believe its by . Book on ” our Legacy of mulatto children often kept a slave
    despite the law at that time. Janice Hayes- Williams Maryland Gazette 2006, I would love to read the Book

  4. Hi, interesting to read as I am a mulatto being the child of an African America father and a white English mother and first came to the states when I was 18 – Grew up in England where it seems to be very common. I always felt a little odd growing up like that I did not belong to any group per se but now I am just happy being me lol

  5. I am a grand-daughter of a Mulatto I dont know whether her mother was African-American or whether her father was. my belief is that she had the name of her slave owner that could have been her father ,Mckinzie or Mckenzy abt 1800-1880 she died 6 oct 1933
    her name is Assie, Osie, uzzie McKenzy, Mckinzy.

  6. I am glad I stumbled across this. I am a distant descendant of Henry Darnall. I have read other stuff about this man and most of it has not been very nice as he was obviously not a very nice man. I ran across something that you might be interested in also. PBS did a frontline? story about The Brothers Darnall, mullato brothers who were raised up in privelege during the time of Henry Darnall, there is even a painting of them!

  7. thank you, i wish i could find out more of this sort of history. i live in BC, Canada, alot of our history is gone…

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