Tobias Henson, a slave in the Anacostia area, purchased his freedom in 1818. Through the 1820s and '30s, Henson bought twenty-four acres and the freedom of his two daughters and grandchildren. Henson added to his landholdings and by the 1870s his family was the principal landholder in the local black community. Family members retained ownership of the land until 1980.
The collection, which dates from 1818 to 1943 and measures .18 linear feet, documents the personal, legal and financial activities of Tobias Henson, a slave who purchased his freedom in 1818, and his descendants. The collection is comprised of personal and business correspondence, receipts, loan agreements, leaflets, pamphlets, newsletters, certificates of title, summonses, accounts and other printed and manuscript materials, including Civil War-era paper money issued by the Confederate States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Of note is a loan agreement between Tobias Henson and Henry Evans, dated 1833, wherein Evans provides Henson $155 to purchase his daughter, using her labor as the collateral for the loan.
Henson family papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dr. Myrtle Henry
African American families
African American soldiers
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment: ACMarchives@si.edu