The final chapter probes the ambivalent and varied intimate connections between free, formerly enslaved, and enslaved people from another angle, investigating women’s manumission practices. Manumission or legal freedom has typically been portrayed as a reward offered by white men to the enslaved women whom they maintained largely coercive sexual relationships with. Focusing on women’s manumission directives tells a different story. Whereas men preferred to manumit their biological children, female slaveholders largely freed other adult women whom they perceived to be intimate companions. Women also displayed an interest in manumitting enslaved children, whom they treated as surrogate kin. Women sought to blend these children into their own families, bestowing money, education, and enslaved people on them. A notable portion of female enslavers bestowed money, property, and slaves on the people whom they manumitted. Their actions had multivalent consequences. On the one hand, women who manumitted captives aggregated the community of free people of African descent on the island. On the other, they used slaveholding to co-opt freed people into Jamaica’s slaveholding system. In a place where liberty and slavery were mutually constitutive, enslaving others became a key means of securing and protecting one’s free status.
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