The Clark County Winchester Heritage Commission and Winchester Black History & Heritage Committee along with Kentucky Humanities are pre­sent­ing Elizabeth Lawson as Charlotte Dupuy: Suing for Freedom.

The pre­sen­ta­tion takes place next Saturday, February 19 at 4 p.m. at Winchester’s Holly Rood, 28 Beckner Street. There is no charge for the event, but dona­tions are wel­come. Masks are required. 

Charlotte Dupuy was born into slav­ery in Cambridge, Maryland, in 1787. When she was eight years old, Charlotte was sold and forced to leave her fam­i­ly. In 1805, 18-year-old Charlotte was brought to Lexington, Kentucky, where she met Aaron Dupuy, who was enslaved by Henry and Lucretia Clay. Aaron and Charlotte were mar­ried in 1806. Following the mar­riage, Charlotte was sold to the Clay fam­i­ly, allow­ing her and Aaron to live as hus­band and wife.

Elizabeth Lawson portrays Charlotte Dupuy.
Elizabeth Lawson por­trays Charlotte Dupuy.

While enslaved to the Clay fam­i­ly, Charlotte was tasked as nurse­maid to the Clay chil­dren, who would even­tu­al­ly num­ber 11. Charlotte and Aaron also raised two chil­dren of their own. 

Henry Clay was appoint­ed Secretary of State in 1825, and the Clay and Dupuy fam­i­lies moved to Washington, DC. In 1829, Charlotte unsuc­cess­ful­ly sued the Clay fam­i­ly for the free­dom of her­self and her chil­dren. Refusing to return to Kentucky with the Clays, she was jailed and forcibly returned to the Clays. 

Charlotte, her daugh­ter Mary Anne, and her son Charles were even­tu­al­ly eman­ci­pat­ed by Henry Clay. Charlotte’s hus­band Aaron and Mary Anne’s son Henry remained enslaved until the pas­sage of the 13th amend­ment in 1865. Aaron died a few months later. 

Elizabeth Lawson of Lexington por­trays Charlotte Dupuy for Kentucky Chautauqua. Lawson began her research of Charlotte Dupuy while work­ing at the Lexington Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. She has pre­sent­ed the sto­ry of Charlotte Dupuy for school groups and adult audi­ences through­out the state

  • Pete Koutoulas

    Pete is an IT pro­fes­sion­al work­ing in Lexington. Formerly of Campton, he and his wife have lived in Winchester since 2015. Pete is a for­mer week­ly news­pa­per pub­lish­er and for­mer colum­nist for the Winchester Sun. These days, when not work­ing he can often be found on his back porch read­ing or writ­ing, in the back­yard tend­ing to his toma­to plants, or put­ter­ing around in his garage or work­shop. Reach Pete at pete@wincitynews.org.