Updated: Jan 28, 2021
The Lost Lives of London Town series remembers the lives of Africans and African-Americans enslaved in the London Town area. We'll share their stories as best as we know of them. The stories aren't always easy to read, but they are always important.
In 1708, an enslaved man known only as Dick fell in love with Elizabeth Clouds. While Elizabeth loved him back, the couple had a problem. Dick was of African descent, while Elizabeth was white. He was enslaved, and she was a servant.
In this installment, we look at how love attempts to overcome all but does not always succeed. Slavery and anti-miscegenation laws created institutional barriers stripping people of the ability to choose with whom they could marry. Even for two enslaved people of African descent, marriage was not legally recognized, and husband, wife, and any children could be torn apart at any time.
Dick and Elizabeth formulated a plan. She disguised herself as a "Mullatoe" by artificially darkening her skin and taking on an Egyptian name.
Together, the couple went before the Reverend Joseph Colebatch at All Hallows Parish, the local Anglican church in the South River area. They were married.
However, after the act of marriage, the truth was discovered. Dick was sold from Thomas Linthicum to James Carroll, possibly as punishment. Elizabeth Clouds was officially condemned by an act of the Maryland legislature, passed in Annapolis. Their marriage was legally disbanded, and they disappeared from the annals of history.
There is no evidence that the pair ever saw each other again.
You can read the Proceedings in which their story is discussed here: http://aomol.msa.maryland.gov/000001/000027/html/am27--318.html
Even with all that stood in the way of love, enslaved people continued to get married, even if unofficially. However, rather than vowing "until death do us part," many instead recited "until distance..." While anti-interracial marriage laws continued well after the Civil War, many formerly enslaved people finally enjoyed the legal authority to marry when and who they pleased with formal protections.
We post a photo of gladiolas blooming in our garden in honor of love, as they represent strength, integrity, and faithfulness.