NJ African American Emigrant History Talk at the American Philosophical Society: Charles Brister, Enslaved by the Barkalows, March 28

Sue Kozel's picture


Echoes of Charles Brister, Enslaved and Free:  New Jersey African American Emigrant to Kentucky and Ohio

American Philosophical Society (APS) Brown Bag with Sue Kozel, Tuesday, March 28 at 12:00pm ET

Virtual Zoom Presentation and In-Person


Please join the American Philosophical Society’s Library & Museum on Tuesday, March 28 at 12pm ET for a Brown Bag presentation with Sue Kozel, Public Historian. She’ll be presenting on the life of Charles Brister, as well as presenting a poem honoring the life of Brister and others enslaved by the Barkalow family. The talk will include the murder of enslaved woman in the same Barkalow family, “Wench Betty.”

Young African American Charles Brister was taken as an enslaved child from New Jersey to Kentucky and Ohio by his owners, members of the Barkalow family of Upper Freehold, New Jersey. This presentation will focus on tracking Brister’s life in the three states after the American Revolution to understand the limits of his freedom. Charles lived with his owner from 1803 in Ohio and was freed on June 24, 1833. Ohio was created as a free state in 1803. Throughout his life, NJ Emigrant Brister was listed in racial categories as Black and/or White. His life included joy and great sadness, with him dying alone in a county infirmary. Kozel received a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to conduct research in Ohio and Kentucky, including at the Filson Historical Society Library, the Kentucky Historical Society, and eight other archives and centers in both states. Additionally, Kozel will discuss the New Jersey Emigrant Register, an underused resource that maintains a collection of genealogical and historical information forms completed by New Jersey families whose ancestors traveled to other territories, states, and/or countries in the Early American Republic. She will share her poem written to honor and remember Charles, Wench Betty (who was murdered by a Barkalow), and other enslaved people owned by the Barkalows. Prior Wench Betty presentations were supported by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.


The Brown Bag will be held in-person in the Board Room in Library Hall (105 S. 5th St., Philadelphia, PA) as well as on Zoom. Those wishing to attend in-person or via Zoom should email Adrianna Link at alink@amphilsoc.org by Monday, March 27.