Houston Matters

Nelly Norris: Freed Slave Fights Attempts to Re-Enslave Her

In the early 1800s in Texas, the law of the land required any freed slave to carry documentation on them at all times proving their free status. There were some who tried to profit from the law by trying to re-enslave those caught without their paperwork – as if they were unclaimed property. Recently discovered […]

In the early 1800s in Texas, the law of the land required any freed slave to carry documentation on them at all times proving their free status. There were some who tried to profit from the law by trying to re-enslave those caught without their paperwork – as if they were unclaimed property.

Recently discovered Harris County court documents from that time period shed light on the plight of freed slaves in early Houston through the lens of Nelly Norris – a freed slave who successfully fought off two separate attempts to re-enslave her. Her story was one of several told recently at a Black History Month event at the Harris County Courthouse.

Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel joins us to tell the story of Nelly Norris and how archived court documents can shed light on the treatment of people like her.

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