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Joseph Trammell’s Freedom Papers



Joseph Trammell’s handmade tin wallet and “freedom papers” show the value of freedom.

Joseph Trammell, like many free African Americans during the Antebellum period, was legally required to carry “freedom papers.” He had to register his free status at the local courthouse, in Loudon County, Virginia. In addition to paying a required registration fee, applicants had to secure the support of a white citizen willing to attest to their character and free status. Freedom papers featured detailed descriptions of applicants including age, height, complexion, possible scars and more. The official document proved Trammell’s status as a free person and protected him from potential enslavement. In the effort to protect his freedom, Joseph Trammell crafted his handmade tin wallet to preserve his valuable freedom papers.