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Moses Williams, 1777-ca. 1825

Born in 1777, Moses Williams grew up in the Peales’ Philadelphia household, the son of an enslaved couple, Lucy and Scarborough, who were traded to Charles Willson Peale in exchange for portraits he had painted of their enslavers in Maryland. After Peale had moved his family to Philadelphia, he became part of the Pennsylvania State Legislature that passed the country’s first "Gradual Abolition of Slavery" Act in 1780. But a provision of the law required those born enslaved to remain in a sort of indentured status with their enslavers until the age of 28, so Moses was raised with Charles Willson Peale’s children after his parents were emancipated and his father took the name, John Williams.


ca. 1803
Reproduction of Silhouette on Paper
The Library Company of Philadelphia

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