Letter to John Copeland from his wife Ann

About the Project

This letter was written on February 18, 1861, by Ann Hurst Copeland to her husband John H. Copeland. John H. Copeland was born free in Nansemond County (now Suffolk), Virginia. Ann Hurst Copeland was born free in Southampton County, Virginia. John married Ann Hurst on January 16, 1860. The couple had at least nine children. The letter is written from Suffolk and Ann mentions having recently returned from Portsmouth. In 1831, Nat Turner’s Rebellion sparked a debate in the Virginia legislature to consider the future of slavery in the state. In 1832, the state ultimately decided not to act for or against the continuation of slavery, but they did limit the rights of free black people. Though John H. Copeland and Ann Hurst Copeland were both born after the Southampton rebellion, as free black people they lived with the consequences of these new restrictive laws. Ann’s letter is dated only a few days after the state of Virginia began talks regarding secession. The state convention ultimately voted to secede on April 17, and Virginia became part of the Confederacy the following month. Help us transcribe this letter to learn about the daily life and concerns of a free African American woman living in the South.

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