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“It doesn’t fit our image of California as the land of freedom and opportunity, a place where everyone can go and have a new start.

We’re not comfortable with that part of our history,” he said.

“The story that’s being told is the diversity and richness and the determination of a small community in the 19th century,” said Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, a history professor at Sacramento State who is supervising student researchers and is married to Joe Moore.

On February 14, 1783, an elderly ex-slave known only as Belinda submitted a petition to the Massachusetts legislature.

With Hall’s help, Belinda won her suit—Royall being an enemy of the state probably tipped the scales in her favor.

She was granted an annuity, but was only paid once.

The executor of the Royall estate ignored further state demands to pay her in 17, after which Belinda disappears from the record.

But the impassioned petition she submitted—which told of her childhood in Africa, her kidnapping, the shock of forced servitude in a foreign land, and the decades of abuse she experienced—lived on, spread by the Quaker anti-slavery network.

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