Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Delphia Lazinbury, 1818-?

By Chelsea Lundquist-Wentz, independent historian and Joanne Parrent, screenwriter and author

Delphia Lazinbury was born in King William County, Virginia around 1818; she identified her parents as Andrew Herbert and Phebe (no last name). Delphia’s early life is undocumented, possibly because King William County experienced a devastating fire in 1885, destroying essentially all prior records. Later in life, she identified her family members in writing, including two sisters, Robinette and Nancy, and her husband Otterway.

In the early 1860s, Delphia and her family moved to Washington, D.C. For the majority of the Civil War, the District of Columbia was a place of refuge for African Americans and it is likely that their move from a neighboring state was in direct pursuit of freedom, employment and opportunity. Though it cannot be confirmed, it is possible the Lazinbury family were enslaved; Delphia’s son Richard sought the assistance of the Freedmen's Bureau for employment and registering his marriage, as other formerly enslaved Virginians did.

By the 1870 Census Delphia Lazinbury is listed as living in Barry Farm with two teenage daughters, Jannetta and Sally. By this time, her husband had passed away. Delphia lived three houses away from her son Richard L. Berry and his family. She worked as a cook and cared for her daughter Janetta, who suffered from a chronic illness. In 1873, Richard deposited $15 of Delphia’s money on her behalf into the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. By the following summer the bank, in financial ruin, was closed by an Act of Congress; while depositors could petition to recoup their funds, only half received amounts less than the full value of their accounts, and the rest received nothing. There is no indication that Delphia Lasinberry recovered any of her savings. In 1875, Delphia’s daughter Janetta died.

In 1877, some of Barry Farm/Hillsdale’s prominent black residents, men and women, petitioned Congress in favor of women’s right to vote. Delphia Lazinbury was one of the 15 black female citizens to sign their name on the document, along with her daughter-in-law Mary V. Berry and neighbor Eliza Spencer. The petition, which included 33 like-minded community members, reflects the citizenry of Hillsdale, who regularly collaborated with each other in charitable efforts, fundraising, community building and benevolent and literature societies.


District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1961, database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 January 2020), Janetta Lazenberry, 02 Nov 1875, District of Columbia, United States; citing reference ID 5337, District Records Center, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 2,135,556.

District of Columbia, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 January 2020), Richard L Berry, 07 Jan 1868; citing Military Correspondence, District of Columbia, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1902 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 20; FHL microfilm 2,424,795.

Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, 1865-1874. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Micropublication M816, 27 rolls.

United States Census, 1870, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 June 2019), Delpha Lazenbury, 1870.

United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 July 2019), District of Columbia > See > Henry > image 1 of 1; National Archives, College Park, Maryland.

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