BATTLEBORO, N.C. — A historical marker being unveiled in North Carolina remembers a slave who killed his master and the lawyer whose arguments spared him the death penalty.

The marker dedicated Saturday in in Battleboro calls the actions in 1834 of a slave remembered only as Will as “a simple act of resistance to slavery.”

Will refused to give a fellow slave a hoe he made with his own hands, so their slave owner shot Will in the back at an Edgefield County plantation. Will then cut the slave owner on the hip with a knife and he bled to death, the News & Observer of Raleigh reports (

The marker on the site of the Edgecombe also honors lawyer Bartholomew Moore. He got Will’s murder charge argued down to manslaughter by saying even slaves had a right to self-defense.

Moore, who would later become North Carolina’s attorney general, argued to the state Supreme Court that “absolute power is irresponsible power.”

The argument persuaded justice William Gaston. “The prisoner is a human being degraded by slavery, but yet having ‘organs, senses, dimensions, passions,’ like our own,” Gaston wrote.

Will’s new owner wanted to avoid the trouble of having a slave who killed a white man among his other slaves, so he sent Will to Mississippi.

There, Will killed a fellow slave and was put to death by hanging.

This story has corrected the name of county where plantation was located to Edgecombe.

Information from: The News & Observer,

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