William G. Thomas, the John and Catherine Angle Professor of the Humanities and a professor of history at the University of Nebraska, is embarking on a research project at the National Archives on the history of African Americans in Washington, D.C. The Early Washington, D.C., Law, and Family Project, funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, will search through court records of 4,000 cases in the National Archives between 1800 and 1820. Scholars will analyze the files to study social and family networks of both Blacks and Whites.
Among the cases that will be thoroughly examined is a suit brought by Mima Queen, a slave who petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court for her freedom based on evidence that she was the descendant of free Blacks. Her attorney in the case was Francis Scott Key. The petition made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was denied.
Some of the documents that have been discovered and digitized may be examined here.