Stratford Hall Seminar on Slavery Director, Phil Schwarz
Dangerfield was born about 1825 of a union between a slave owner and his slave, Henry and Elsey. Henry was a free white man, and Elsey was enslaved; therefore, his mother was a slave. In October of 1858 Henry Newby filed a deed of emancipation for five slaves so that they could stay near their relatives. Phil cannot find any trace of them. The rest of the Newbys moved to Bridgeport, Ohio in 1858. By Ohio law, by establishing residence, a slave owner automatically freed these slaves. At this point, Dangerfield was free, but his wife, Harriet, is enslaved in Virginia.
The surviving three letters detail her love, anguish and desperation.
Knowing that Dangerfield died in 1859 at Harpers Ferry, Phil looked for and found the estate of Dangerfield Newby. He also found a newspaper record stating that Dangerfield had traveled around Ohio asking for money to buy his wife and children. He amassed $742. But Harriet's owner, Dr. Jennings, refused to sell her to him.
Left with few options, Newby joins the John Brown conspiracy.
After Dangerfield was killed at Harpers Ferry, the family was defenseless, and Phil has spent years researching their fate.
Phil closed by stating that he studies Newby because he is so appalled by the position he was left in and the ways he was thwarted in his attempts to buy his family. He finds himself at times angry and depressed by the story and can only imagine how African Americans must feel.
"This is my Diary of Anne Frank. Whenever I feel I
might be complacent or detached from my studies of slavery I touch base with
Dangerfield Newby. It is a sacred obligation for us to follow through on
our studies of human beings, especially if their history is hidden."