Walking into Black History
Nace Butler’s mother was enslaved by love
I ran away in February 1785 …
Thus begins the story of Nace Butler, a young man born to a bold Irish indentured servant and an African male slave.
Nace’s mother Eleanor Butler, known as Irish Nell, arrived on one of the ships of Charles Calvert, the fourth Lord Baltimore.
At the time of her marriage to Charles Butler, a 1664 law required that any free woman who married a slave would herself be enslaved, as would her children. Even with a warning from Lord Baltimore, love prevailed.
Irish Nell’s predicament caused Lord Baltimore to change the law by the end of the year so that no white woman could be forced into slavery.
But Charles Butler’s master held the family — which grew to seven or eight children — to the old law.
One son, Nace Butler, ran away from a St. Mary’s County plantation while petitioning the state’s General Court for his freedom.
Find out what happened to Nace Butler and eight other Chesapeake runaways between the years of 1720 and 1860 in Historic Annapolis Museum’s Freedom Bound, Runaways of the Chesapeake exhibit.
February is Black History Month, and this February marks Maryland’s 150th Emancipation Celebration.
At the museum, see the newly designed and expanded museum gift shop. An African American Annapolis downtown walking tour map will guide you past historically significant buildings and monuments and introduce African Americans from many walks of life.
From the museum, continue the journey by visiting additional exhibits at the Waterfront Warehouse and the Banneker-Douglas Museum.