This project is an attempt to chronicle and connect all of the decendants of the 500+ slaves that were freed by Robert Carter III at Nomini Hall plantation, Westmoreland County Virginia in 1791
Robert "Councillor" Carter III (February 1727/28 – March 10, 1804) was an American plantation owner, founding father and onetime British government official. After the death of his wife, Frances Ann Tasker Carter, in 1787, Carter embraced the Swedenborgian faith and freed almost 500 slaves from his Nomini Hall plantation and large home in Westmoreland County. By a "Deed of Gift" filed with the county courts in 1791, he began the process of manumitting slaves in his lifetime and continued after his death. His manumission is the largest known release of slaves in North American history prior to the American Civil War and the largest number ever manumitted by an individual in the US.
From Baptist and Swedenborgian influences, Carter concluded that human slavery was immoral. He instituted a program of gradual manumission of all slaves attached to his estate. He designed the program to be gradual to reduce the resistance of white neighbors. Frequently, Carter rented land to recently freed slaves, sometimes evicting previous white tenants in the process. Toward the end of his life, Carter moved from Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. In part he wanted some distance from family and neighbors who looked askance at his Swedenborgian faith and program of manumission. In 1803 the year before his death, Carter wrote his daughter Harriot L. Maund, "My plans and advice have never been pleasing to the world."
In the two decades after the Revolutionary War, numerous slaveholders in the Chesapeake Bay area freed their slaves. They were inspired by Quaker, Methodist and Baptist preachers, as well as the principles of the Revolution. Often they made provision for freeing slaves in their wills or deeds, in which they noted the principles of equality as reason for their decisions. The percentage of free blacks increased in the Upper South from less than one percent before the Revolution, to 10 percent by 1810. In Delaware, three-quarters of all blacks were free by 1810.