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Petry argues that slavery began in 1619 when a Dutch trader exchanged African under his custody for food (45). The ownership of African as servants became legal, just as it was for the poor white men who offered labor for their passage to America. In 1680s, the popular racial -based slave system developed. All the slaves wanted freedom, but the problem was how to attain it.
Women were in the forefront to liberate the other slaves. Their courage and dedication could not let even their beloved husbands discourage them. Women such as Harriet Tubman, the leader of the Underground Railroad believed that “freedom was not an option but the only option.” She would always talk about it with her husband until he could get mad and tell her to shut up. Petry reveals the conversation between Harriet and her husband, he says “You take off and I will tell the Master. I will tell the Master right quick. She stared at him, shocked thinking, he couldn’t, he wouldn’t…you don’t mean that, she said slowly.” (85). She wanted freedom and then decided to leave for Philadelphia without the husband. She was ready to pay that price, but that was not enough, she was to come back to free others.
In Philadelphia, other women of courage included Henrietta Bowers Duterte. She was an African American; the first black woman to serve as an undertaker in the city. To help save the runaways from the slave catchers, she could hide them inside a basket. This was despite the draconian laws that existed at the time. A good example was the law enacted by the Virginia colony in 1642 to stop those who harbor or assist the runaway slaves. The penalty was 20 pounds of tobacco for sheltering a runaway slave at night. In addition, the slaves were branded after the second attempt of escape (Petry 63).
According to Petry, Virginia Assembly passed a law in 1669 which allowed the killing of ‘negros’
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