The “Belinda” of “Belinda Hall” fame was named Belinda Sutton. Although she appears in her most well-known 1783 petition as “Belinda” and as “Belinda Royal” in two document in 1785, “Sutton” was her married name, as a later petition in 1788 indicates. It has long been known that enslaved people did not always take the last names of their enslavers, and many had their own last names. “Belinda Sutton” is the only name that we can say that she, in any way, chose. Therefore, it is proper and respectful to call her by her real name. I brought this to the attention of the Royall House, and they agree wholeheartedly with me, and will use Belinda Sutton from now on. The changes are already reflected on their website.
Annette Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School.