BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN NJ: We Salute Ms. Sylvia Dubois

Sylvia Dubois was an African-American woman born into slavery who became free after striking her slave mistress. After gaining her freedom, Dubois moved to New Jersey, where she lived with her children until her death.

According to Wikipedia, A physician by the name of C.W. Larison decided to document the life of Dubois and her journey to freedom in the book Silvia Dubois (Now 116 Years Old) A Biography of the Slav Who Whipt Her Mistress and Gand Her Freedom.

Dubois was born in Sourland Mountain, NJ, although the exact year is contested, Dubois herself said she was born March 5, 1768, however, historian Jared C Lobdell dates the year of her birth to be 1788 or 1789.

Published reports in Wikipedia said as a child, Dubois lived in Flagtown, and at 14-years-old she moved to a town called Great Bend on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to work on the tavern of her master, Dominicus "Minna" Dubois.

While in bondage, Dubois often did tasks that were considered "men's work," such as working the field and ferrying boats at a tavern on the Susquehanna. In her biography, Dubois recounts how she frequently cheated the other ferrymen out of customers and money.

"In 1808, when Minna was out on grand-jury duty in Wilkes-Barre, the mistress had Dubois scrub the bar-room because the company was over. Dubois did not do the scrubbing to her liking, and the mistress hit her. In retaliation, Dubois struck the mistress so hard that she fell and landed against the door. Dubois thought that she had killed her at first. The other people in the bar-room attempted to intervene, but Dubois threatened them with physical violence, and no one approached her, according to Wikipedia reports.

"Dubois fled to Chenang Point in New York, but her master Minna sent for her. She went back to Great Bend, and Minna told her that if she took her child to New Jersey, he would write her a pass and officially give Dubois her freedom. Consequently, Dubois took her baby and went to Flagtown, New Jersey, to find her mother. There, she discovered that her mother had moved to New Brunswick, so she tracked her down and remained there for years".

Wikipedia said Dubois died six years after Larison interviewed her at the age of either 100 or 101. Her body rests in Stoutsburg Cemetery in Sourland Mountain, New Jersey.


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