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Jenny Parker, Petition to Remain in Virginia, 1813


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


Jenny Parker was a former enslaved person emancipated by Josiah Wilson in Surry County in 1813. She petitioned for special permission to remain in the state. The petition includes a certificate of conduct. In 1806 the General Assembly placed restrictions on emancipations and required that once an enslaved Virginian was freed, he or she was required to leave the state within one year's time. Often, however, the law did not always operate to full effect. Some people petitioned the General Assembly to remain, some received permission from the local courts, and sometimes the community simply looked the other way.

Petitions to the General Assembly were the primary catalyst for legislation in the Commonwealth from 1776 until 1865. Public improvements, military claims, divorce, manumission of slaves, division of counties, incorporation of towns, religious freedom, and taxation were just some of the concerns expressed in these petitions. Frequently, the petitions contain supplementary support documents useful in research, including maps, wills, naturalizations, deeds, resolutions, affidavits, judgments, and other items.

Citation: Petition of Jenny Parker, Surry County, 1813, Legislative Petitions Digital Collection, Library of Virginia.


VS1, USI.1, USI.8d, VUS.6e

Suggested Questions

Analyze: Why would Virginia require freed people to leave the state?

Up for Debate: A major enslaved peoples' conspiracy was uncovered in 1800 called Gabriel's Rebellion. How might that event have affected lawmakers' decisions to place restrictions on newly freed people?