Theoretically born free of slavery around 1804, and presumed to have been the daughter of Agnes, wife of William Lee and given manumission after death of Martha Washington in 1803 but the probate process through the lawyers and courts required over 20 years before Aggie was legally free to be listed as free. Thus, she was not listed as such in the Virginia 1810 or 1820 listings of free colored persons residing in Virginia. Martha Washington's will was probated twenty years after her death to include freedom for slaves held in her name and exclude those that were so-called dower slaves and their offspring belonging to the Custis Estate and therefore becoming the property of surviving Custis heirs.
Joanna Lee was finally declared free at least 20 years after not being so by virtue of prevailing laws and customs. But the same laws and customs then required that she be registered and listed subject to fines and re-enslavement by the Fairfax County Courts and Sheriff if she failed to annually appear and pay a tax/tithe for freedom unless she was bonded to a free White person able and willing to pay same. Joanna is an excellent example of the movements from slaves to bond-servant status wide-spread before the Civil War and 13th Amendment to United States Constitution.
Alexandria Registry, 1809 indicates Joanna as living with/and or bonded/married to William Weaver and Emanuel Weaver.
A fact often overlooked by most historians is that freedom was never free unless the owner was alive and the freed ex-slave immediately left the state for a place like Ohio where slavery was illegal. But, even living in a state where slavery was illegal did not free any Negro from the possibility of being kidnapped by bounty hunters and carried into a slave state for sale by auction.
For women, especially those who were physically attractive, the options were to leave the state and family and friends or become an indentured servant or concubine to a free White man of property and power. We have not been able to determine who fathered her children, but census data indicates they were born in the Roanoke Virginia area.
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