Polly Berry: A Free Woman Who Was Held as a Slave. She Sued Her Illegal Slave Owner and Won

Lucy Delaney Polly Berry

There is no picture of Polly. This is her daughter Lucy.

Polly Berry was born Polly Crocket in 1818 in Kentucky where slavery was still legal. As a teenager the slave owner moved to St. Louis Missouri and sold to Major Taylor Berry and his wife Fannie who changed her name to Polly Berry.

 Polly did the following things:

  • Got married and had two daughters Nancy and Lucy Ann
  • Major Taylor died and his widow married Robert wash
  • Polly’s name was changed to Polly Wash

Fannie Berry died and her last will and testament stated that upon her death all slaves were to be released. They weren’t. Fannie’s new husband Mr. Wash, sold Polly’s new husband, to a southern plantation. She never saw him again.

 The following happened:

  • Berry’s daughters reclaimed Polly and her kids
  • Polly had her daughters escape to Canada while she stayed behind
  • Polly ran away eventually to Chicago
  • She was caught and charged under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793
  • She and her daughters were returned to Mr. Wash, Fannie’s Widower, as slaves.
 Polly filed suit against the slave owners on behalf of her daughters and eventually herself.
She stated they were free as Fannie Berry’s last will and testament had stated
An all white jury agreed with Polly
She and her daughters were set free. She also received $1000 in damages.

Polly and her daughter worked as a seamstress for the rest of their lives and lived free in St. Louis. She never saw either of her husbands again.

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1 Comment

Filed under Black History

One response to “Polly Berry: A Free Woman Who Was Held as a Slave. She Sued Her Illegal Slave Owner and Won

  1. Pingback: 5 Black People Who Triumphed Over Slavery and Made it to Freedom | On The Black List

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