Collect Day #1 WILL CLARKSON
Lord of freedom and life, we raise up today Will Clarkson who fought for the freedom of this country even while enslaved: grant that his service to our country and to the state of New Hampshire may inspire us not to rest until all racism is erased and that true community among all is made a reality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
DAY #1, February 14, 2018
(C. 1739 – 1809)
Will Clarkson was born about 1739 in Africa, perhaps in what is now Senegal.
Kidnapped by slave traders when he was about 16 years old, he was brought to Portsmouth and sold at auction to local white tanner James Clarkson who gave Will his English name. Will was also enslaved in the home of Peirse Long when Colonel Long purchased both the Clarkson house and Will from the estate of James Clarkson, Jr.
Clarkson served in the colonies’ fight for freedom during the Revolutionary War, though he remained enslaved after the war. As a leader in the Black Portsmouth community, Will Clarkson was elected annually on “Negro Election Day” to the position of viceroy in the Black Court, and in 1789 he was elected King of Court. Due to ill health, he stepped down the next year. In 1779, Will had been one of 20 African men to sign a petition to the New Hampshire legislature asking for an end to slavery in New Hampshire. Although the petition was tabled without further action, Colonel Long kept his promise and in his final testament in 1789 made Will a free man.
Will and his first wife Abby, who died in April of 1794, had two children, Naby and William. In 1802 Will married Matilda, Jack Odiorne’s widow. South Church records show that Will died on April 17, 1809 at age 70, having sustained himself on odd jobs, whenever and wherever he could, since gaining freedom.