Frau Doktor Nancy Stafford of Georgia: From Slave to Physician

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2012-05-01 00:05Z by Steven

Frau Doktor Nancy Stafford of Georgia: From Slave to Physician

The African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter
March 2009
ISSN: 1933-8651
95 pages

Mary R. Bullard

Tracy Moxhay Castle

Chapter 1

In 1850 a cotton planter named Robert Stafford fathered a daughter (later named Cornelia) by a woman named “Juda.” Three years later Juda bore him a second daughter (later named Nancy). On an inventory made for Stafford’s tax records they were simply young females, listed only by age, not by name or family. One was six years old, the other was nine years old. They were the only female mulattos in their age group. All the others in their age group were black. “Mulatto” indicated to the county tax assessor that, in this case, their father was a white man.

Their first appearance in the historical record was in an 1860 inventory in Camden County, Georgia. It was a slave inventory. They were slaves because Juda was a slave.

These events were not so unusual on the southern plantations of the United States, but ensuing developments were remarkable. This paper focuses upon Nancy’s life, for she grew up to follow a career. It was an unusual one for an African-American girl born before the Civil War. Considering that she was born of a slave mother, her choice of career was downright incredible. The child grew up to became a physician, to practice in Europe. She died in 1933. The location of her grave is unknown. Although her descendants told us she was buried in London, no confirming evidence has appeared.

The story is also one of Robert Stafford, an independent thinker, who did not follow the usual pattern of slave master. Nonetheless, he was a southerner and a Georgian. The location of his plantation is important for it throws some light upon the special circumstances of Nancy Stafford’s life. The people with whom Robert Stafford grew up were unenthusiastic about slave ownership, although its usefulness for them was absolute…

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