Black Alice, or Alice of Dunk’s Ferry (1694-1802)

Fasaha M. Traylor and Allener M. Baker-Rogers

Black Alice was the first African American woman whom history records in Philadelphia. Born enslaved in 1694, her long life—she lived to be 108—made her the first Blackwoman “celebrity” in the city, appearing in newspapers and books through 1856.

But despite her celebrity status, her life was emblematic of the lives of countless other Black women, enslaved and free. For the chroniclers of her life, she was seen as acelebrity. But none of those who wrote about her ever confronted her humanity. Sheran a business, had parents and a daughter, lived a rich spiritual life, and found ways tobe free despite being enslaved—yet none of these human dimensions ever appeared inaccounts of her life.

Coauthors Allener M. Baker-Rogers and Fasaha M. Traylor wanted to bring Black Alice’s humanity to the fore. What might Black Alice think of all the women in They Carried Us: The Social Impact of Philadelphia’s Black Women Leaders? Her imagined letter to them is most of the book’s introduction.

We thank voice actor Sunni Green Tolbert for using the imagined letter to bring Black Alice to life in the video “Black Alice of Dunk’s Ferry.”