Eighty-two- year-old Julia Hollis died this date, May 18, in 1849 of “old age” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. She was born enslaved and gained her freedom by manumission, according to the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census. At the time of her death, her household contained the following family members.
This large family lived in what appears to be one room, likely only 12’x12′. It is hard to believe the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census that reported the family paid $5 a month in rent. This was the going rate for a large room in a working-class neighborhood. According to the 1847 Census, the Hollis family were the only African Americans on Mark’s Lane.
On election day, October 9th in 1849, the Irish gangs in the southern district of Moyamensing went hunting for Blacks and for whites that comingled with them. The racist mob burned down dozens of Black homes, businesses, and churches. Scores of African Americans and whites were badly injured. The violence went on for a night and day and, eventually, took militia troops to put down the white mob. It appears the Hollis family members escaped being injured because they were a considerable distance from the rampage.
Even though the members of this large family may not have been direct victims of the mob, the warning was clear. African American Philadelphians were not safe from harm day or night in their homes, churches, or on the street. The police were not going to protect them, and the militia only intervened after the assaults and arsons were well underway.
Eight-two-year-old Julia Hollis died on a mild, cloudy day in May. She was buried, with dignity, by her family at Bethel Burying Ground.