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Her Legacy

Edith Cumbo, an independent and resourceful free black woman who lived in Williamsburg in the late 1770s, represents the challenges free blacks faced at the dawn of the American Revolution.

Born Free

Edith Cumbo (born ca. 1735) was born to a free black woman in Charles City County, Va. across the James River from Williamsburg. Because children inherited the status of their mother, Edith was also free. She grew up with five brothers.

On Her Own

In the mid-1750s, Cumbo lived in Halifax County, where her son Daniel was born. She remained unmarried, but was successfully found not guilty when she was accused of having a child out of wedlock. By the late 1770s, Cumbo was living in Williamsburg as one of only a handful of free blacks living within the city. Independent and resourceful, Cumbo headed her household and may have used her housewifery skills to earn a living, perhaps as a domestic servant, laundress or seamstress.

Proud and Protective

In 1778, Cumbo took steps to protect her property and household when she took the initiative to sue Adam White for trespass, assault and battery. Her story illuminates the lives of free blacks during the American Revolution.




An American Story: Edith Cumbo

An American Story: Edith Cumbo

During the American Revolution, there were a few free Blacks living in and around Williamsburg. Meet Ms. Edith, a free black woman with five brothers fighting in the American Revolution. Discover how free Black Virginians lived in the city that provided challenges to them.