Sleuths trace fate of 1st black male slave freed by Lincoln

(AP) – The likely grave of a man considered the first black male slave freed by Abraham Lincoln lay unnoticed in the cemetery of a former mental hospital in Minnesota for over a century until some history sleuths recently tracked it down.

William Henry Costley was just 10 months old in 1841 when a young Lincoln won a case before the Illinois Supreme Court that freed Nance Legins-Costley from indentured servitude, a status tantamount to slavery.

As her son, Costley was essentially a slave, too.

Carl Adams published a book on Costley’s mother, Nance Legins-Costley, last year.

He pieced together William Costley’s story from military pension records.

Adams and his collaborators then used records at the Minnesota Historical Society to trace his grave to the cemetery of the now-closed Rochester State Hospital.   

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