1885 Remarkable, Complete Manumission File for an American-Owned Black Female Slave in Cuba

1885 Remarkable, Complete Manumission File for an American-Owned Black Female Slave in Cuba

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On offer is an absolutely remarkable, rare complete, notarized, manumission expediente (file) for a Black slave in Cuba who is owned by an American. It includes an introduction to the parties involved in the negotiation, a discussion of the reason for manumission, a slave ID and a resolution to the dispute where this slave is given her “cedula de libre” (ID of a free person). 

This manumission file is for Rafaela, a Creole woman who is owned by Don Roman Govin. A translation of the second page, which gives a summary of the manumission filing, follows: 

“This 21st of November, 1885, Romano Govin y Pinto, of this neighbourhood, O'Reilly Street no. 84, has shown, to the Secretary of this Junta, that since 1869 he has had under his charge, the brown woman Rafaela, native, and a slave today of Doña Maria de la Luz Diaz, and since the cited date lives in the United States. In different sessions since a while, the señora has written that liberty can graciously be given to the slave as may be convenient. Rafaela has stated she would like to enjoy her ‘redemption’”

Rafaela goes on to say that her owner is in the United States and as such is not in possession of her. She begs for her complete freedom. Following this is Rafaela’s Slave ID, which indicates that she has been a slave since 1880. On January 8, 1885,  Rafaela appeared before the Secretary of the Junta, and the Secretary deemed that she “fulfilled [the requirements] agreed upon I had delivered her certification to this office, #3058, containing her liberty…”.

While there are manumission fragments in circulation, to find a complete file that guides the scholar or collector through the entire manumission process in 19th century Cuba is rare. It gives insight into how emancipation was achieved and the infrastructure in place to manage the slavery system, which spilled over into the management of the Chinese coolie system. 

Cuba had a great need for inexpensive labour to support their sugar industry. While America and Britain signed a treaty in 1814 to abolish the African slave trade, it took many years for complete global abolition. The African slave trade was not ended in Cuba until 1886, despite it being formally abolished in 1867 (Yun & Laremont, 2001). During the Chinese coolie trade (1847-1874) African slaves often worked alongside Chinese indentured labourers. 

This file measures approx 12.5x8.5 inches. It contains three full leaves plus a slave ID certificate (which is smaller than the rest of the document) all bound with string which is barely hanging on and has come apart in the upper part of the document. There are five pages of writing plus certificate. The file is in Fair condition with horizontal tears through two of the three full-sized leaves, which do not impact readability. Spanish language. 

Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to request photos. (Kindly include the SKU, listed on this page above the price, in your e-mail so we can more easily answer your questions.)

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