As we are still in the never-ending fight for Freedom, I wanted to recognize a former slave. This story is still relevant as we are still fighting for freedom in America. This touched me because it’s often so hard to trace Black people’s ancestry due to slavery, so it’s awesome when you can and discover your lineage. A childhood friend of mine, Lloyd Guest (@lbuckhurst), recently learned that his great-great-great grandfather is Dangerfield Newby. You may know him as DJANGO, as depicted in the Quinton Tarantino movie starring Jamie Foxx as the lead character.
This was incredible news to me, as I cosplay Django. Dangerfield was born into slavery in 1815, in Fauquier County, Virginia to a slave, Elsa Newby and a Scottish white slave master Henry Newby. Newby is my friend’s mother’s maiden name. Dangerfield, his mother and siblings, were freed by his father and he made a living as a blacksmith but his wife Harriet remained enslaved along with their seven children on a plantation in Warrenton, Virginia. Dangerfield had agreed upon a price with his wife’s slave master to free his family. The price was $1500, which he saved only to have her slave master raise the price and he was unable to secure his family’s freedom. Dangerfield knew then he could only free his family by force.
He was one of five Black raiders to participate in John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia on October 17, 1859. This armed rebellion was meant to take over the arsenal in an effort to initiate a slave revolt in the Southern States. During the raid, Dangerfield was killed by a man who ran out of ammunition and inserted 6” spikes into his rifle and shot him in the throat. After being killed, his body was stabbed repeatedly by multiple men and all of his limbs were amputated. His body was then left in an alley to be eaten by hogs. A letter from his wife, Harriet, was found on his body. Harriet’s letter proved instrumental in advancing the abolitionist cause. The raid on Harper Ferry is also called the dress rehearsal for the Civil War. Dangerfield’s family was sold to into Louisiana after the raid. Dangerfield Newby’s descendants are alive today and I’m proud to know some of them.
This is the letter that was found on Dangerfield’s body from his wife:
BRENTVILLE, August 16, 1859.
I want you to buy me as soon as possible for if you do not get me somebody else will. The servants are very disagreeable. They do all that they can to set my mistress against me. Dear Husband you are not the trouble I see these last two years. It has been like a troubled dream to me. It is said that the Master is in want of monney. If so I know not what time he may sell me. Then all my bright hopes of the future are blasted. For there has been one bright hope to cheer me in all my troubles, that is to be with you. For if I thought I should never see you on this earth, life would have no charm for me. Do all you can for me which I have no doubt you will. I want to see you so much. The children are all well. The baby cannot walk yet. The baby can step around any thing by holding on to it, very much like Agnes. I must bring my letter to close as I have no news to write. You must write soon and say when you think you can come
Your affectionate Wife,
This small but significant piece of history was fortunately unearthed. Imagine the history that is yet to be discovered! A great many Black people can’t trace their lineage due to slavery. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve been asked by Africans that know their history where I’m from and I can only answer “America.” The answer is never satisfying because what they’re really asking is where in Africa my people are from and I’m simply unable to answer the question.