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Black / African-American History Month

1764 Receipt for Sale of Phebey, Enslaved Child to Framingham Widow

Bill of Sale for Phebey, Enslaved Child, 1764, From the Framingham History Center. Transcript available.

Picture of original bill of sale written in cursive

Background information from the Framingham History Center.

"This document serves as a receipt for the sale of Phebey, an enslaved child, by Josiah Richardson of Sudbury to Elizabeth Balch, a Framingham widow.  It is the most complete document relating to the sale of an enslaved person in our collection.

Phebey was not an anomaly in Framingham. A 1760 tax accounting identifies seven “slaves for life” in town, but there had once been far more. Most prominent households in town counted at least one enslaved person within their number. 

Phebey, who was just two years old at the time of sale, was sold to the Widow Balch for 1 pound, 6 shillings, and 8 pence, the modern equivalent of roughly $370. This document forces us to face the ways in which the white people of Framingham owed their success to the subjugation and dehumanization of people of African descent, and to consider the echoes of this practice that still exist today. Continued records of Phebey’s life are lost, but if she lived to see slavery outlawed in the state in 1783, she would have been 21 years old."


More from the Framingham History Center collection - "Among the ranks of Framingham’s enslaved people are well-known heroes of the Revolutionary War Crispus Attucks and Peter Salem. But the nature of enslavement is such that for every Crispus Attucks, there were legions of less famous names — Hannover, Blaney Grusha, Gloster, Jane — and countless others we may never know. Their systematic dehumanization means that, in most cases, the only remaining evidence of their lives can be found in estate inventories and sales receipts like this one, written records in which they are treated no differently than a common household object." This collection also includes Bill of Sale that lists all the enslaved people positively identified in Framingham.