Mary Simms In ‘Manhunt’ Explained: What Happened To Mary? 

Mary Simms’ story is a testament to Black oppression. During the trying times when Black people were considered the property of White men, Mary Simms was one of the many forgotten names who stood up to the atrocities of White entitlement. Even though Apple TV+’s historical drama Manhunt follows the detailed narratives of Edwin Stanton and John Wilkes Booth, it also sheds light on other characters like Mary Simms. It was probably one of the most harrowing periods in American history that shaped the future of the country. It might even be one of the few wars that the country actually fought for righteous reasons (scoffs). If it weren’t for Lincoln, it would’ve taken another century for the US to abolish slavery and free the Black people. But again, in my very honest opinion, in the present day, the American Civil War might just have become a tool. Considering the countless atrocities committed against the Black diaspora even after the war, one can admit that US hegemony loves to fall back on the examples of the Civil War to protect its reputation. Perhaps that is the point at which Manhunt is trying to remind the viewers to remember the people of the Black community and their unending sufferings. 


Spoilers Ahead

Who Is Mary Simms? 

Mary is a young Black woman working for Dr. Samuel Mudd. At a tender age, Mary had been separated from her family and bought by Mudd to work at his ranch. Along with her brother, Miles, Mary was forced to stay at Mudd’s farm as a housekeeper and also Mudd’s assistant. For a brief period during her childhood, she was freed and was living with her uncle in the free state of Pennsylvania, but was snatched by bounty hunters and returned to Mudd’s farm. 


How Does Mary Meet Booth? 

Mary was often instructed to nurse Dr. Mudd’s patients. Both she and her brother were subjected to hard labor with no payment at all. Sometimes, they were even subjected to Mudd’s sadistic outbursts for minor mistakes, but in a land where they weren’t even considered humans, they had no other choice but to give in to Mudd’s cruelty. Right after the assassination of Lincoln, Mudd was visited by the fugitive John Wilkes Booth, who needed medical assistance because of the injuries he sustained during his stunt. As per the protocol, Simms is instructed by Mudd to tend to Booth before he can treat him. However, during their brief encounter, Booth, being a racist, mistreats her and disallows her from shaving his face, fearing that she might try to kill him. Booth even makes derogatory comments about Mary. These instances are merely a reflection of the countless atrocities she has already faced. 

What Does Mary Do When She Receives The Land Grant? 

As per Lincoln’s reconstruction plan, the Black people in the Confederate States were supposed to be handed land grants. Lincoln believed that owning land would be the first step for the Black people to earn their rights as free people in this country. The idea was that owning land would allow these people to become responsible citizens who would contribute to the future of the United States. As a result, Mary Simms, too, receives a grant in her own name. Mary had never owned anything before, as she was herself viewed as property, but for the first time, she owned land and was granted the privilege of being a free person. Mary always wanted to be an educated individual; she had practically taught herself how to read, and as soon as she received this grant, she decided to open a school for Black folk. She was not a learned person, but she hoped to impart whatever knowledge she possessed. Mary believed that only education could be the path to being actually free in a free country. That is the dream that she saw for herself and her people. 


However, her dream was short-lived as President Johnson had other plans for America. Johnson was an incompetent conservative who wanted to pander to the men who made this country a living hell for personal interests. He thought that the status quo wasn’t ready for Black people to own lands and establishments yet, which is why he took back the land grant. Men like Johnson only saw things on a bigger scale, but through a microscopic lens. As a result of this decision, individuals like Mary Simms had to suffer. Her land was snatched from her, and she was forced to go back to Dr. Mudd. On her return, Mudd whipped her for her actions. 

How Does Mary Become Free? 

When Stanton and his Union men discover that Dr. Mudd’s house is a stop on the Confederate spy line, they pay the doctor a visit. Mudd pretends to be an innocent man who tends to whoever comes knocking on his door, but Stanton doubts that this is not the case. Mudd claims to not have known Booth at all when he received Mudd’s treatment. This is where Mary plays a key role; she points Stanton to the room upstairs, implying he might find evidence. As expected, Stanton finds the Assassin’s boots with his name engraved on them. When Mudd still tries to play innocent, Mary finally stands up to her oppressor and comes clean about his involvement in aiding the Confederacy and how he even knew John Surratt and his assassination plans.  This testament helps Stanton and his men arrest Mudd. Stanton, grateful to Mary for her help, grants Mary and Miles refuge at a Black-friendly camp in the North. 


How Does Mary Help Stanton Win The Case? 

Even though her past is fictional, Mary Simms did play an instrumental role in the trial against the people who conspired against Lincoln, especially Dr. Samuel Mudd in the Grand Conspiracy Trial. Being Mudd’s housekeeper, Mary was a key witness to Mudd’s involvement in the Confederate conspiracy, which is why Stanton depended on her testimony at the trial. The defendants, too, see her as a threat and resort to slandering her name, calling her lazy and a liar to affect her credibility as a witness. Moreover, her status as an uneducated individual only strengthens the defense’s rhetoric. Mary is aware of this, however. She is also a pretty persuasive person, and she convinces Miles to testify against Dr. Mudd. Additionally, she even persuades Louis Weichmann to speak out against John Surratt’s and Dr. Mudd’s involvement. She knows that despite the  recent anti-slavery reforms, prejudices against the Black people still continue, and that is why for people to believe her claims against Mudd she would need a White man to verify these claims. 

What Happens To Mary? 

Following the success of the trial, which led to the arrest of her slaver, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Mary is finally a free Black woman. At the celebratory gathering after the trial, General Howard informs Mary that he is inaugurating a vocational college for Black folks to educate them in arts and trade. Howard insists Mary apply to the college as well, and she does. Once she is eligible to apply for college, Mary finally enrolls in the college. Through a tumultuous journey from slavery to becoming a free graduate Black woman, Mary’s story is probably one of the most emotional ones that this series portrays. 


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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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