AskDefine | Define freedman

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freedman n : a person who has been freed from slavery [syn: freedwoman]

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  1. A person who has been released from a condition of slavery.


person who has been released from slavery

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Extensive Definition

distinguish The Freed Man
A freedman is a former slave who has been manumitted or emancipated. Freedmen are a feature of all slave-holding societies.

Ancient Rome

Compared to the other ancient peoples in the Mediterranean area, the Romans were extremely liberal in freeing slaves and granting Roman citizenships. In fact, freedmen formed about 5% of the population in Rome during the Imperial Age of Rome.
Slaves were able to earn their freedom in more than one way. Educated and trained slaves were almost always freed, a practice that was so common that Emperor Augustus passed a law which prohibited the freeing of slaves before reaching thirty years of age. A slave could also be freed as a reward for long and dedicated service, and many were freed in the wills (and therefore at the death) of their owners. The Augustan law also restricted this so not more than 100 slaves (considerably less in poorer househoulds) could be freed this way. A slave was able to buy his own freedom through his peculium (money), or personal possessions.
The act of freeing a slave by an owner was called manumissio, from the word manus, meaning hand in Latin, and mitto, meaning send. The oldest method of manumission was in a legal ceremony, where a witness claimed that the slave did not actually belong to the master, who did not deny this. As a result, the slave was freed. Simpler methods also existed. The master might simply make a declaration in the prescence of his friends, or simply invite the freed slave to recline on the couch at dinner.
Liberti or Libertini are two words that were, at different times, used to express among the Romans, the condition of those who, having been slaves, had been made free. There is some distinction between these words. By libertus, was understood the freedman, when considered in relation to his owner, who had bestowed liberty upon him and he was called libertinus, when considered in relation to the state he occupied in society since his manumission.
Needing a Roman name for the first time, freedmen customarily took the name of their former owner, who provided for them. Freedmen were also able to own their own land. However, they were not fully Roman citizens. They couldn't run for public office or hold high officer ranks in the army.
A precedent was set under the Claudian Civil Service where freedmen were used as civil servants in the Roman bureaucracy. In addition, Claudius passed legislation concerning slaves, including a law that stated that sick slaves abandoned by their owners became freedmen if they recovered. The emperor was extensively criticized for using freedmen in the Imperial Courts.

United States

In the United States, the term refers to former slaves emancipated before or during the American Civil War. (Some American historians employ the term "freed person" or "freedperson" as a gender neutral alternative.)
Four million people went from bondage to freedom as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although the Emancipation Proclamation stated all slaves in the southern states were in essence 'free,' the Emancipation Proclamation did not release them from slavery. To help them transition from slavery to freedom, President Abraham Lincoln created the Freedmen's Bureau. The Fourteenth Amendment gave ex-slaves citizenship. The Fifteenth amendment gave voting rights to the Freedmen. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are known as the "civil rights amendments".
There is an ongoing dispute between the Cherokee Nation and descendants of freedmen of Cherokee masters over the membership of the freedmen in the Cherokee tribe and the benefits that membership grants.
freedman in German: Freigelassener
freedman in Spanish: Liberto
freedman in Italian: Liberto
freedman in Latin: Libertus
freedman in Lithuanian: Atleistinis
freedman in Japanese: 解放奴隷
freedman in Russian: Вольноотпущенник
freedman in Ukrainian: Вільновідпущеник
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