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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Renee

Zipporah Potter Atkins | First Black Woman Property Owner


In 1670, more than 100 years before Paul Revere would famously ride through the nearby countryside, Zipporah Potter Atkins (1645-1705) bought a home in Boston, Massachusetts. With this purchase, Zipporah became, who historians believe to be, the first Black woman to own property in what is now the United States.


Though both of Zipporah’s parents were enslaved, she was born free in Massachusetts, the first colony to legalize slavery.


At the time, children born to enslaved parents were legally free. This law was changed in 1670, the same year that a then 25-year-old Zipporah bought her home.


During Zipporah’s youth, her parents were owned by a prominent merchant named Robert Keayne, the founder and first captain of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, the oldest chartered military company in the nation.


In his will, Keayne left forty shillings (about $300 today) to two of the men he kept in bondage, one of whom was Zipporah’s father. Since Zipporah’s father predeceased her, this will stipulated that the inheritance would go to Zipporah.


It is believed that Zipporahs worked as a domestic to earn the additional funds necessary to buy her home, which she would purchase for approximately $10,000 in today’s currency. Zipporah purchased her home on the anniversary of her father’s death, which historians hypothesize might have been a deliberate attempt to honor him.


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