"The Petition of a Great Number of Negroes Who Are Detained in a State of Slavery," 1777
by Lancaster Hill, Peter Bess, Brister Slenser, Prince Hall et al.
On January 13, 1777, eight enslaved men in Boston petitioned in Boston for an end to slavery. According to James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute and editor of the forthcoming Black Writers in the Founding Era, 1760–1800, “the radical origins of the Civil Rights Movement in America can be traced to this petition, submitted by a group of eight enslaved men to the Massachusetts legislature, on January 13, 1777. This petition is the first to claim equal rights for Black people on the basis of the rights claimed for Americans in the Declaration of Independence, published just six months earlier. As a result of such efforts, Massachusetts became one of the first states to abolish slavery, by court decision, in 1783.”
Here, Renée Goldsberry and other women from the cast of the musical Hamilton read the petition. The producers of the video note, “As the women of Hamilton honor the progress that was made with this reading, we are also reminded of the struggle that Black women endured and still endure in their quest toward equality in this country.”