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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

Chapter 1 - An Ambush


A group of slaves suspected of brutally attacking a slave patrol in Fairfax County, Virginia, on leap day night of 1840 were placed on trial before a Virginia court of oyer and terminer, which found two of them - the brothers Alfred and Spencer – guilty and sentenced them to death for the crime. The local community divided in its response to the verdict. Whereas some whites in the area welcomed the slaves’ impending executions, others lobbied the governor for a commutation of sentence to spare their lives. Virginia governor Thomas Walker Gilmer reprieved the sentence of one of the brothers to sale and transportation outside the United States of America, but permitted the other brother to hang at the gallows.