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Robin and Polly Holmes

Oregon

Robin Holmes was an African American held in bondage in Oregon. Slaveholder Nathaniel Ford came to Oregon in 1845, bringing Holmes and an African American woman named Polly.

Robin and Polly married and had several children, all of whom were claimed by Ford until 1853. In that year, Robin and Polly made a bid for freedom by leaving Ford; however, Ford claimed the Holmes children as his property.

When Ford denied them their own children, Holmes filed a writ of habeas corpus to obtain custody. Oregon Judge George Williams ordered Ford to bring the children into court and show cause for their detention. The case came to trial in the summer of 1853, and the children were awarded to Robin and Polly on the ground that enslaved African Americans were brought into Oregon where, under the law, slavery could not exist.