Suing for Freedom
Sign #9 175 N. Mill Street
Charlotte “Lottie” Dupuy was born in 1787 in Cambridge, Maryland, to George and Rachel Stanley who were enslaved. At the age of eight, Charlotte was sold to James Cordon for $100 and forced to leave her family.At 18 Charlotte traveled to Lexington with Cordon and met Aaron Dupuy, who was enslaved by Henry and Lucretia Clay. After marrying Aaron Dupuy, Charlotte was sold to Clay for $450.
Charlotte and her family moved to Washington D.C. with Clay during his time as Secretary of State. After Clay’s tenure, the Dupuy’s were forced to move back to Kentucky. Charlotte understood that this move would seal their fates as slaves. Fighting for her family, she swiftly decided to take matters into her own hands. In February of 1829, Charlotte petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court in Washington D.C. to sue the Clays for her freedom and that of her children. Her suit was based on an agreement with her previous owner - he had promised to eventually grant her freedom.
The petition to stay in D.C. was temporarily granted, and she continued to live at the Decatur House serving the new Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren. Ultimately, the lawsuit was denied, and Charlotte was ordered to move back to Kentucky. Charlotte initially refused and was jailed in Virginia.
Eleven years after the start of her journey towards emancipation, she and her daughter Mary Anne were granted their freedom. Clay continued to travel the country with Charlotte’s son, Charles, as his manservant. It was said that Clay used Charles as an example of his kindness toward slaves, eventually freeing Charles in 1844. Aaron Dupuy remained enslaved to Clay until 1852, when he was freed either before Clay’s death that year, or by his last will and testament.