In 1845, American slave "Aaron" recorded the following story regarding the importance of freedom. I could not read it without weeping:
"A poor slave being on his death bed, begged of his master to give him his liberty before he died, 'I want to die free massa.' His master replied, you are going to die soon, what good will your liberty do? 'O master, I want to die free.' He said to the slave, 'you are free.' 'But do write it master, I want to see it on paper.' At his earnest request he wrote that he was free, the slave took it in his trembling hand, looked at it with a smile and exclaimed, 'O how beautiful, O how beautiful,' and soon fell asleep in the arms of death."
(from The Light and Truth of Slavery: Aaron's History; electronic text available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/aaron/aaron.html)