Meritorious Manumission: How The Government Created Mistrust In The Black Community

In 1710, the meritorious manumission act of 1710 was enacted in Virginia. It was the legal act of releasing slaves for “good deeds” as defined by the national public policy. This freedom could be granted to a slave for saving the life of a slave master, creating an invention a slave master could profit from or the most commonly used deed “snitching” on a slave who decided they wanted to be free and run away or organize a revolt. 

It’s critical that melanated people understand how big of an impact this law had on our community and how we are still being affected by it today. If you look at the 200 plus slave revolts that were attempted from around 1710 to the late 1800s, most of them weren’t successful for one reason, a scared negro would find out about the plot and take it upon themselves to alert the slave masters. 

This was one of the many tactics the dominant white society used to create separation and mistrust within the black community. Establishing an invisible hierarchy based on “good deeds” for a people without hope or an identity, was a recipe for disaster. The lingering effects of this law can still be found amongst the melanated community to this day. The only difference currently is your “good deed” could be aligning yourself with an entity or a corporation and being used to reinforce negative and demining stereotypes about Black Americans. 

If you take a close look at how we interact with each other in black society, it’s usually based on some form of a social construct that, at the end of the day, does nothing for us as a collective. Regrettably, individual success has taken the place of any type of unified movement. In my opinion, learning our history can go a long way in developing the proper perspective and provide a clear understanding of how we got in the situation we are in today.

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