Special Collections and University Archives has recently added to its collections a manumission written in 1801 by Moses Hall of Nicholas County, Kentucky. This manuscript document is a contract stating that Hall will free Dinah, a black female slave, when she reaches her 23rd birthday in five months (March 10, 1802).
Manumission was the act of freeing a slave by a slave owner, through a deed or will. This act of an individual contrasts with a governmental directive to free slaves, such as the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863. Manumission in the United States was done for a variety of reasons, ranging from a sentimental gesture to a method of incentivizing obedience at the prospect of eventual freedom. However, the practice became increasingly regulated in order to limit the population of freed black residents in the colonies starting in Virginia in 1691 when a law was passed that required freed slaves to leave the colony within six months and for the previous slave owner to pay for the trip.