Pease join our virtual Spring Colloquium Series this coming Monday, May 16th @10:30am (PDT) as we host Dr. Candice Lyons. Dr. Lyons is currently a 2021-22 Dissertation Scholar in the Department of Black Studies at UCSB and recently received her Ph.D. in African and African Diaspora Studies at UT Austin. She will join the Department of African and African American Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University this coming Fall.
“I Love Polly So Good:” Queering Connections Between Black Women in the Pre-Emancipation United States
In 1814, several people enslaved by Calvert County planter Susannah Rawlings fled her property and secured their liberation via the British troops stationed at the time along the Patuxent River. In addition to providing details about the runaways’ whereabouts, witnesses deposed concerning this event also, interestingly, noted that one of the escapees—a woman in her mid to late thirties named Minty—“had two surnames[,] Gurry…and Caden,” adding “[She originally] had a husband by the name of Joe Gurry…[and] then formed an intimacy with a negro woman…by the name of Philis Caden.” Court records seem to indicate that the two women later cemented their union with a religious ceremony that can be understood as, essentially, a wedding. Minty and Philis “both joined the Methodice [sic] Church,” former neighbor Alletha Smith explains, “claimed a sisterhood, and then [Minty] adopted that name as Minty Caden.”
In a time where marriages between the enslaved were often informal, not ordained by the local clergy, and consisted of—at most—an enslaver’s consent to wed and a small party, the fact that these two enslaved Black women appear to have been joined in something akin to matrimony, in a church, is both anomalous and notable. This talk will trace their experiences as well as those of other Black women in the pre-Emancipation U.S. who formed similar queer connections, including famed poet Phillis Wheatley and Shaker eldress Rebecca Jackson.
The Zoom Link for this event is below the flyer.