Corinna Hinton was born enslaved on August 1, 1835. Her father is unknown, while her mother may have been Patsy Clark, an enslaved woman who lived with Hinton late in the 1850s. A mid-twentieth-century genealogy of the Omohundro family lists Hinton's birthdate as 1823, but census records and her own testimony place her birth in 1835. Little is known about Hinton's early life. At some point she came to be owned by Silas Omohundro, a successful slave trader in Richmond. On June 15, 1849, when she was thirteen years old, Hinton gave birth to a child fathered by Omohundro, Silas Omohundro Jr.
Given the prevalence of sexual violence in the slave market, the absence of laws against the rape of enslaved women, and the legal, physical, economic, and social vulnerability of Hinton's position, it is unlikely that her relationship with Omohundro was consensual. However, no direct testimony from Hinton exists, and historians have differing interpretations. She sometimes signed her name "Mrs. Corinna Omohundro," although the examples of this are from court records in which she was attempting to claim title as Omohundro's legal wife in order to avoid an inheritance tax.
Hinton gave birth to six more children with Omohundro, one daughter and five sons. Five of them lived to adulthood. Hinton raised her children in Omohundro's residence on the corner of Seventeenth and Grace streets in Richmond, on the same property as his so-called jail, which was used to confine enslaved people awaiting sale. About 1857, Omohundro sent the eldest children, Silas Omohundro Jr. and Alice Morton Omohundro, first to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and then to Philadelphia, to be educated. Under the guidance of one of Omohundro's acquaintances, A. W. Rand, the children eventually boarded at the school of M. G. Davis of Philadelphia. The elder Silas Omohundro recorded sending the children money for dancing lessons, schoolbooks, and other gifts. On at least two occasions, Omohundro and Hinton visited them in Pennsylvania, where Omohundro had also purchased real estate. Their neighbors later recalled that Omohundro introduced Hinton as his wife, and they therefore took her to be his white, legal spouse. The younger Omohundro children remained in Richmond. Omohundro paid for a man named W. Cawfield to tutor the children and, at least as early as 1858, to tutor Hinton, as well.
Slave Trading and Freedom
Hinton continued in this role until Omohundro's death in 1864. In his will, Omohundro went further than many slave traders in similar circumstances and acknowledged his children with Hinton. He never specifically called Hinton his wife, however, referring to her only as "my woman," and "a kind, faithful, and dutiful woman to me and an affectionate mother." Omohundro freed his children and Hinton in the will, and left Hinton her choice of property in either Richmond or Philadelphia, with the remainder of his estate to be sold and invested for the benefit of his children.
Sometime after the fall of Richmond at the end of the American Civil War (1861–1865), Hinton began a relationship with a white Maine native named Nathaniel Davidson. Davidson, who had been a major of volunteers in the Union army, resigned to report on the war for the New York Herald, which presumably brought him to Richmond. By 1871, he and Hinton had gone into business together, operating adjoining shops. Davidson sold wood and coal while Hinton ran a bakery and confectionary. She also rented rooms to boarders. It is unclear whether the two married, although Hinton signed her name "Mrs. Corinna Davidson."
The family later moved to Washington, D.C., where Davidson went to work for the National Republican newspaper. By 1878 he was the paper's managing editor. In the 1880s, he received an appointment in the quartermaster general's office and later helped at least one of Hinton's children embark on a career in journalism. During Hinton's years with Davidson, official records consistently described her and her children as being white.
Davidson died in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 1886, and Hinton on January 15, 1887. They are buried in that city's Congressional Cemetery.
August 1, 1835 - Corinna Hinton is born enslaved. The location of her birth and the names of her parents are unknown.
June 15, 1849 - Silas Omohundro Jr. is born in Richmond, the son of the slave-trader Silas Omohundro and his enslaved concubine Corinna Hinton.
1856–1864 - Silas Omohundro pays his enslaved concubine Corinna Hinton once or twice a year for sewing clothing for slaves about to be sold.
ca. 1857 - Silas Omohundro sends his eldest two children to Pennsylvania to be educated.
July 8, 1864 - The will of Silas Omohundro is executed in Richmond, freeing his enslaved concubine, Corinna Hinton, and their seven children.
1871 - According to the Richmond city directory, Nathaniel Davidson and Corinna Hinton are in business together, running adjoining shops.
1878 - By this year Nathaniel Davidson has become the managing editor of the National Republican newspaper in Washington, D.C.
April 29, 1886 - Nathaniel Davidson dies in Washington, D.C. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery.
January 15, 1887 - Corinna Hinton dies in Washington, D.C. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Finley, A. Corinna Hinton (1835–1887). (2017, July 6). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Hinton_Corinna_1835-1887.
- MLA Citation:
Finley, Alexandra. "Corinna Hinton (1835–1887)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 6 Jul. 2017. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: June 22, 2017 | Last modified: July 6, 2017
Contributed by Alexandra Finley, assistant professor of history at Mississippi State University.