For Duplin County slaves, no mercy from the court

On this day in 1787: Darby and Peter, Duplin County slaves, are convicted of murdering their master with an ax. Darby is sentenced to be “tied to a stake on the courthouse lot and there burned to death and his ashes strewd upon the ground.” Peter, less severely punished because of his youth, is sentenced to have “one half of each of his ears cut off and be branded on each cheek with the letter M” and to receive 11 lashes.


2 thoughts on “For Duplin County slaves, no mercy from the court”

  1. The branding iron survives and is in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of History. You can view it here:

    If I remember correctly, the legal basis on which burning at the stake could be imposed in a case like this has to do with the fact that an enslaved person killing his master, like a woman killing her husband, was considered to have committed petit treason. Killing the person who had dominion over you in the divinely ordered hierarchy of things was considered a variety of attack on the state itself.

  2. Now that is a gruesomely visceral artifact — thanks Leslie. Wouldn’t you like to know how it made its way from courthouse to museum….

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