A freedman or freedwoman is a former slave who has been released from
slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, slaves were freed
either by manumission (granted freedom by their owner) or emancipation
(granted freedom as part of a larger group). A fugitive slave is one
who escaped slavery by fleeing.
1 Ancient Rome
2 Arabian and North African slavery
3 United States
3.1 Cherokee Freedmen
4 See also
6 External links
Slavery in ancient Rome
Cinerary urn for the freedman Tiberius
Claudius Chryseros and two
women, probably his wife and daughter
Rome differed from
Greek city-states in allowing freed slaves to
become plebeian citizens. The act of freeing a slave was called
manumissio, from manus, "hand" (in the sense of holding or possessing
something), and missio, the act of releasing. After manumission, a
slave who had belonged to a
Roman citizen enjoyed not only passive
freedom from ownership, but active political freedom (libertas),
including the right to vote. A slave who had acquired libertas was
known as a libertus ("freed person," feminine liberta) in relation to
his former master, who was called his or her patron (patronus).
As a social class, freed slaves were liberti, though later Latin texts
used the terms libertus and libertini interchangeably. Libertini
were not entitled to hold public office or state priesthoods, nor
could they achieve legitimate senatorial rank. During the early
Empire, however, freedmen held key positions in the government
bureaucracy, so much so that
Hadrian limited their participation by
law. Any future children of a freedman would be born free, with
full rights of citizenship.
Civil Service set a precedent whereby freedmen could be
used as civil servants in the Roman bureaucracy. In addition, Claudius
passed legislation concerning slaves, including a law stating that
sick slaves abandoned by their owners became freedmen if they
recovered. The emperor was criticized for using freedmen in the
Some freedmen enjoyed enormous success and became quite wealthy. The
brothers who owned House of the Vettii, one of the biggest and most
magnificent houses in Pompeii, are thought to have been freedmen. A
freedman who became rich and influential might still be looked down on
by the traditional aristocracy as a vulgar nouveau riche. Trimalchio,
a character in the
Satyricon of Petronius, is a caricature of such a
Arabian and North African slavery
Main article: Arab slave trade
For centuries Arab slave traders took and transported an estimated 10
to 15 million sub-Saharan Africans to slavery in North Africa and the
Middle East. They also enslaved Europeans (known as Saqaliba) from
coastal areas and the Balkans. The slaves were predominately women.
Many Arabs took women slaves as concubines in their harems. In the
patrilineal societies, mixed-race children of concubines and Arab men
were considered free and were given inheritance rights related to
their fathers' property.
Free negro and Free people of color
Former slave with horn historically used to call slaves, Texas, 1939.
Photo by Russell Lee.
In the United States, the terms "freedmen" and "freedwomen" refer
chiefly to former slaves emancipated during and after the American
Civil War, by the
Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.
Slaves freed before the war, usually by individual manumissions, often
in wills, were generally referred to as "Free Negroes" or free blacks.
In addition, there was a population of African Americans born free,
descendants of families of unions between white women (indentured
servants or free) and African men (whether indentured servants, slave
or free.) According to laws in the slave states, children were born
into the status of their mothers; thus, mixed-race children of white
women were born free. There were numerous such families formed in
the Upper South before the Revolution, and they migrated west into
Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee with neighbors. For the first
two decades after the Revolution, thousands of slaves were freed in
the Upper South, and most northern states abolished slavery, some on a
Louisiana and other areas of the former New France, free people of
color were classified in French as gens de couleur libres. They were
born to African or African-European mothers and white fathers of
mixed-race African and French or other European ancestry. The fathers
sometimes freed their children and sexual partners, and the Creoles of
color community became well-established, particularly in New Orleans
Louisiana became part of the US. They had more rights under the
French than later under the Americans after the
Louisiana Purchase. In
addition, there were sizable communities of free people of color in
French Caribbean colonies, such as
Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) and
Guadeloupe. Due to the violence of the Haitian Revolution, many free
people of color, who were originally part of the revolution, became
exiles after being attacked by slave rebels, particularly in the north
of the island. Some went first to Cuba, from where they came to New
Orleans in 1808 and 1809 after being expelled. Many brought slaves
with them. Their numbers strengthened the French-speaking community of
African-descended peoples, as well as the free people of color. Other
refugees from Haiti settled in New York and Charleston.
Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 declared all slaves in
states not under the control of the
U.S. government to be free (i.e.
the Confederacy), it did not end slavery as an institution. Abolition
of all slavery (affecting four million people in the South, including
Border States that had stayed in the Union) was achieved with the
ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment gave ex-slaves full citizenship
in the United States. The Fifteenth Amendment gave voting rights to
adult males among the free people; as only adult males had the
franchise among whites. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are known
as the "civil rights amendments", the "post-Civil War amendments", and
the "Reconstruction Amendments".
To help freedmen transition from slavery to freedom, including a free
labor market, President
Abraham Lincoln created the Freedmen's Bureau,
which assigned agents throughout the former Confederate states. The
Bureau also founded schools to educate freedmen, both adults and
children; helped freedmen negotiate labor contracts; and tried to
minimize violence against freedmen. The era of Reconstruction was an
attempt to establish new governments in the former Confederacy and to
bring freedmen into society as voting citizens. Northern church
missionary societies, such as American Missionary Association, sent
teachers to the South to assist in educating freedmen and their
children, and established several colleges for higher education.
Main article: Cherokee Freedmen
The Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek nations were among those Native
American tribes that held enslaved African Americans before and during
the American Civil War. They supported the Confederacy during the war,
supplying some warriors in the West, as they were promised their own
state if the Confederacy won. After the end of the war, the U.S.
required these tribes to make peace treaties, and to emancipate their
slaves. They were required to offer full citizenship in their tribes
to those freedmen who wanted to stay with the tribes. Numerous
families had intermarried by that time or had other personal ties. If
freedmen left the tribes, they would become US citizens.
In the late 20th century, the Cherokee Nation voted for restrictions
on membership to only those descendants of people listed as "Cherokee
by blood" on the
Dawes Rolls of the early 20th century, excluding most
Cherokee Freedmen (by that time a term referring to their
descendants). In addition to arguing that the post-Civil War treaties
gave them citizenship, the Freedmen have argued that the Dawes Rolls
were often inaccurate, recording as freedmen even those persons who
had partial Cherokee ancestry and were considered Cherokee by blood.
Choctaw Freedmen and
Creek Freedmen have similarly struggled with
their respective tribes over the terms of citizenship in contemporary
times. (The tribes have wanted to limit those who can benefit from
tribal citizenship, in an era in which gaming casinos are yielding
considerable revenues for members.) The majority of members of the
tribes have voted to limit membership, and as sovereign nations, they
have the right to determine their rules. Descendants of freedmen
believe their long standing as citizens since the post-Civil War
treaties should be continued.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Freedmen.
Freedmen's Aid Society
Freedmen's Bureau bills
Freedmen's Colony of Roanoke Island
Freedman's Savings Bank
^ "Slaves & Freemen". PBS.
^ Millar, Fergus (1998–2002). The Crowd in Rome in the Late
Republic. University of Michigan. pp. 23 & 209.
^ Mouritsen, Henrik (2011). The
Freedman in the Roman World. Cambridge
University Press. p. 36.
^ Berger, Adolf (1953). libertinus, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman
Law. American Philological Society. p. 564.
^ a b Heinegg, Paul (1995–2005). Free African Americans of Virginia,
North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware.