You are here
Few African Americans gained their freedom in early Virginia. At Monticello, Jefferson recorded only one free black man and two “mulatto” servants who worked in the 1770s and 1780s as general laborers. While the Virginia legislature relaxed its restrictions on manumission in 1782, policy makers again tightened the laws in 1806, mandating that manumitted slaves leave the state and prohibiting slaves from being taught to read and write. African Americans usually gained freedom in one of three ways—they were born to white mothers, they purchased their freedom, or they were manumitted by their owners.