John Custis (ca. 1733-1751)

Artist: Unknown
Date: probably 1740-1749

John Custis, often called Jack, was the son of John Custis IV and Alice, an enslaved woman. John Custis recognized John as his natural son. John Custis IV’s will bequeathed a “portrait of my Negro boy John” to Ann Moody, a Williamsburg tavernkeeper’s wife with whom he was romantically involved. This is the only documented portrait of a person of African descent as the primary subject (not an attendant) from colonial Virginia.

See: John Custis IV’s Will, Custis Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society; Janine Yorimoto Boldt, “‘Constantly to look at me’: Slavery and the Development of Colonial American Portraiture,” Winterthur Portfolio (Summer/Autumn 2022): 127-166.

Family: Custis
Location: Williamsburg
Decade: 1740s
Attributes: man