The Business of Freeing a Slave in Virginia

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Public officials, slave owners, and others in eighteenth-century Virginia judged freed slaves a “great inconvenience” as they were frequently suspected of receiving stolen goods and encouraging slaves to run away or worse, rebel. Moreover, “being grown old [they bring] a charge upon the country”-that is, aged or infirm former slaves who were unable to work became eligible, in principle, for support from the parishes of the Church of England (the only source of public welfare in British Virginia) in which they lived.

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