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Paul Jennings, who was born a slave on President James Madison’s estate at Montpelier in 1799, was a "body servant" who attended the president until his death in 1836. Jennings later purchased his freedom from Daniel Webster. Webster acquired Jennings from Pollard Webb who in turn bought the manservant from Dolley Madison in 1846. After meeting the terms of his agreement with Webster, Jennings became a free man and found work at the Department of the Interior. In 1865, Jennings published, Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison, the first memoir about the White House by one who had lived there. The publication remained obscure for many years because it was printed in a limited edition, but today it is acknowledged by scholars as a classic. It provided details about one of the most critical periods in the history of the city of Washington–the War of 1812–and the formation of the city’s enterprising free Negro community in the antebellum period. It also recounted Jennings’s involvement in a plan in 1848 to undertake a large-scale escape of slaves from the capital aboard the schooner Pearl.

Bill of sale that transfers ownership of Paul Jennings from Dolley Madison to Pollard Webb.

Collection of Michael R. Winston

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