Monday, December 24, 2007


MANUMISSION Derived from the Latin verb manumittere, liter­ally meaning "to let go from the hand," manumission was a popular term used during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in reference to the voluntary act on the part of indi­vidual slave-owners of freeing or liberating their own slaves. As a general rule, slaves so freed were issued a formal document ("manumission deed") by the slave-owner. This document, of course, became an invaluable possession of the ex-slave and usually the only means of "proving" that he or she was in­deed free.

Although the distinction is somewhat amorphous, the terms manumission and emancipation should not be confused. Whereas manumission refers to an individually-motivated and voluntary act on the part of -an individual slave-owner, the term emancipa­tion generally is used in reference to a government-decreed large-scale or collective liberation of slaves, such as that oc­casioned by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

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