John [no surname given]

1763 - ????


Enslaved person living and working on Unity Valley Pen (Portland), Jamaica. Manumitted in 1795 by David Barclay (q.v.) and removed to Philadelphia, with 29 other freed persons from the estate, where placed under the care of Society for Improving the Condition of Free Blacks.

John was 32 at the time of his emancipation and listed as 'native African'. In a letter from Barclay's agent, William Holden, who was charged with moving the group to Philadelphia, he was identified as 'one of the most sensible and intelligent' and the individual to whom Holden appealed when the group refused to board the ship for fear of being sold to the Spanish. Holden recounted his conversation with John to Barclay, who later included the letter in his published account: 'I engaged a vessel to convey them to Philadelphia, laid in provisions, cloathed them properly, and, when all things were ready, caused them to be conveyed from the Pen to Kingston, in order to embark; but on their arrival on the wharf, where the ship's boat was ready to carry them on board, they unanimously declared they had altered their minds and would not go, because they had been informed that "they were to be sold to the Spaniards." In this state of embarrassment I knew not, for some considerable time, how to act; and for two hours I never experienced such agitation of mind; but after finding all my arguments were in vain, I took John (one of the most sensible and intelligent of them) aside; and having explained my intentions, and taken much pains with him, John said, "You are our massa (master), and we are your slaves, and you have a right to do with us what you please; I therefore will go with you, and will endeavour to prevail on the rest to go with you also." Soon after this they all went on board; previous to which they were manumitted...'

Upon arriving in Philadelphia John was apprenticed for 2 years, 'found in clothes' [domestic service] and given '$40 freedom dues'. In 1801 Barclay wrote an account of the emancipation and the fortunes of the former enslaved now living in Philadelphia. John had married another of the group, Amelia, and was observed to 'conduct himself well'.


David Barclay, An account of the emancipation of the slaves of Unity Valley Pen Jamaica (London, 1801). Available through Googlebooks:

Further Information


Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
- 1795 [EY] → Enslaved

Pen owner David Barclay order manumission 1795.

Relationships (3)

Enslaved-manumitted → Previous owner
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Other relatives
Husband → Wife