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century, free or enslaved, perhaps the best-known today is Belinda Sutton, an African-born woman who was enslaved by the Royalls.
We know much more about her than we do about most of those who experienced slavery, but it is still frustratingly little.
Scholars speculate that Prince Hall, an acknowledged leader of Boston’s black community at the time, is likely to have written the petition.
The Massachusetts legislature approved an annual pension of fifteen pounds and twelve shillings, to be paid from Royall’s estate, but just one payment was made, and in 1785, she petitioned the legislature for payment of the amount previously authorized.
Although the 1783 petition had long been known to scholars, it was only in 2015 that the launch of a comprehensive database of Massachusetts antislavery petitions brought to light additional petitions that allow us to track her persistent efforts to ensure that she received the pension confirmed by the legislature.
A history of missed payments meant that Belinda would renew her claim five times over the course of a decade.
Weeks of doing this eventually led to the opportunity to become a stunt performer in Django Unchained, created by Quentin.