City Archives
New Orleans Public Library


Louisiana. Parish Court (Orleans Parish).
Petitions for the emancipation of slaves, 1813-1843
3 cu. ft.

The Parish Court appears to have inherited the supervisory authority over slave emancipations given to the county judges by legislative act of 1807. That act required any master desiring to emancipate one or more of his slaves to make a declaration of his intention to the county judge. The judge, once satisfied that the proposed emancipation met the various standards set by law, would then order the sheriff the post public notice of the emancipation so as to allow opponents of the action to state their case.

In 1827 the legislature amended the process to require the parish judge to submit emancipation petitions to the Police Jury for their consideration. One that body made its final determination on a petition, the parish judge then ordered posting of the appropriate notice. Once the Jury and the judge gave the approval, the master still had to go through the proper legal processes to effect the actual emancipation.

Manuscript petitions to the Parish Court by masters seeking to gain permission to emancipate their slaves. Each petition names the slaves to be freed and gives some identifying information about them. Although the petitions follow a formal legal outline, occasionally there are additional documents filed in testimony of some service rendered by the slave that has made them particularly worthy of emancipation. Some of the petitions also include a copy of the legal notice required to be posted prior to approval of the individual petition. Other documents filed with some of the petitions include bonds, affidavits, acts of sale, and extracts from the proceedings of the Police Jury.

The number of emancipation petitions per year varies. The greatest number, 93, is from 1834; several years are represented by no records at all.

Link here for an index to these petitions.

The petitions are available on five rolls of 35mm microfilm, filed under the call number noted above.

Note: The emancipation petitions were digitized as part of Louisiana State University's digital collection Free People of Color in Louisiana: Revealing an Unknown Past. (To locate a petition, search by the name of the person being freed.)

Transcriptions of the original petitions, in French and English, along with records of the Police Jury's actions relative to each petition, are available in the records of the Orleans Parish (La.) Police Jury. The Police Jury records are indexed by name of petitioner.

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