Fourteen slaves who petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for freedom during the Revolutionary War were finally granted emancipation on Friday.
The legislature granted posthumous emancipation when the governor signed the bill. Slaves originally submitted the petition on November 12th, 1779.
“Their plea fell on deaf ears,” Governor Maggie Hassan said before signing the bill. “It is a source of deep shame that our predecessors didn’t honor this request. But today, more than 230 years too late for their petition, we say that freedom truly is an inherent right not to be surrendered.”
Portsmouth, New Hampshire Mayor Eric Spear spoke on the importance of the bill and of recent plans in his city to build a memorial park commemorating a African-American burial ground in downtown Portsmouth.
“When you think about slavery as ‘down there’ or ‘over there,’ it has a distance that doesn’t make it as real,” Spear said. “All the future residents are going to know a little bit more about their own history, their own land and how slavery was a part of that.”