Governor Maggie Hassan has signed legislation that finally officially grants freedom to African Americans who served in the Revolutionary War.
The Governor signed legislation that posthumously grants freedom to 14 men who had originally petitioned the legislature for freedom in 1779. The bill, which originated in the State Senate, was ultimately unanimously approved in both Houses. Originally, 20 slaves had sought freedom, but 6 of them were given that right by the owners after the petition was submitted. Hassan signed the legislation in Portsmouth, home of bill sponsor Senator Martha Fuller Clark and the black heritage trail.
“More than 230 years too late for their petition, we can say that freedom is truly an inherent right, not to be surrendered.”
Valerie Cunningham, who founded the black heritage trail in the city, pointed out that the original petitioners not only asked for their freedom, but that the name of slaves be known no more in the state.
“Symbolism is important, but it is my hope that we do not forget about the other men, the women and the children who were enslaved in New Hampshire at the time of this petition.”
A committee is working toward the establishment of a memorial park in the city, at the site of the colonial era burial ground containing the remains of more than a dozen African Americans. A construction crew working on a city street accidentally unearthed the graveyard in 2003.