This past summer, Haverford College Libraries launched a new website, Manumitted: The People Enslaved by Quakers (manumissions.haverford.edu).
The site presents 339 manumissions held by Haverford College’s Quaker and Special Collections. Manumission refers to both the act of enslavers freeing the people they enslaved and the legal document that records this freeing. The manumissions on the site were created between 1765 and 1790 and mostly come from the greater Philadelphia area.
Original papers of manumission from the Quarterly Meeting of Philadelphia, 1786. Courtesy of Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections.
“The very existence of these manumissions contradicts the common story told about Quakers and slavery, which tells us that Quakers were always anti-slavery and were not enslavers,” reads the introduction to the Manumitted site. “The existence of these documents shows the reality of Quaker slaveholders and Black enslaved Quakers. This strongly contradicts the typical narrative of eternal Quaker opposition to slavery.”
The website came into being through the efforts of David Satten-Lopez, who is the first Anne T. and J. Morris Evans Post-Baccalaureate Fellow at Haverford. Another post-baccalaureate fellow will replace Satten-Lopez in 2022, but may work on other library projects.
“There is more work to be done,” says Mary Crauderueff, curator of Quaker Collections at Haverford Libraries. “Although Haverford College has started this work, it is up to Friends and scholars to work together to do further research and interpretation of these manumissions and similar documents. Discussion amongst Friends about reparations should acknowledge what it is that is in need of repair.”
Quaker and Special Collections are part of the Haverford College Library. Haverford College, a liberal arts college founded in 1833 by the Religious Society of Friends in Haverford, Pa., currently enrolls 1,435 students.