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History Bytes: Manumission Documents

After the American Revolution, slave ownership in Newport declined rapidly due to moral and religious changes fueled by the Society of Friends and local clergymen. In addition, the damaged economy made slave ownership an expensive and less useful practice. Many enslaved African Americans were granted freedom in wills and manumission papers, often taking new names to reflect their free status such as Freedom, Freeset and Liberty. Some former owners were concerned not to abandon former slaves into a world of unemployment and uncertainty, but rather contracted for future paid work or entered into apprenticeship agreements.

Manumission Document

Manumission certificate executed by Samuel Ayrault for Jack dated June 16, 1796. Collections of the Newport Historical Society.