African-American History ~ Antebellum Free Blacks
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African-American History ~ Antebellum Free Blacks






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  • (copyleft 2008) Chad David Cover.Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 1.0 Generic. See
  • New York & North Carolina, too, allowed free blacks to vote, but subsequently withdrew this right when propertyless white men gained the vote in the 1830s.
  • This cartoon, originally drawn by Edward Williams Clay as one of fourteen in a series called "Life in Philadelphia,“ (1830) satirized black celebrations of the prohibition of the international slave trade.A group of drunken black men sit, stand, and stagger around a table, proposing toasts:"De day we Celumbrate! Who he no come sooner? Guess de hard fros & de backward Spring put um back. 29 pop gun & 2 grin.""De Orator ob de day -- When I jus hear him begin he discourse, tink he no great ting, but when he come to de end ob um, I think he like de scorch cat more better dan he look -- Moosick -- Possum up de Gum tree.""White man -- mighty anxious to send niggers to de place day stole him from, now he got no furder use for him.""GubnerEustas -- Cleber old sole as eber wore nee buckle in de shoe -- 99 cheer on tree quarter""De Genius de Merica -- He invent great many cruious ting: wonder who fust invent eating & drinking. 50 cheer & ober.""De Sun -- Wonder why he no shine in de night putting nigger to dispense ob de candle.""Joe Gales -- He ascmassa Adams "if he be in health my brudder" and den he he cut he guts out.""King Edwards -- Guess he no great tings no more nor udder people all he cut such a swell"Image Credit: The Print and Picture Collection, The Free Library of Philadelphia

African-American History ~ Antebellum Free Blacks African-American History ~ Antebellum Free Blacks Presentation Transcript

  • Antebellum Free Blacks
  • Slavery in an Age of Revolution
    • Rhetoric of liberalism inspired blacks to hope for and/or demanding freedom.
    • Christian egalitarianism, too, became a source of inspiration.
    • Blacks challenged slavery in many places.
    • Many whites questioned their right to hold slavery in human form.
    • However, “scientific” forms of racism would be articulated; used to deny black humanity, justifying denial of “life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.”
  • Q1: Black Patriots
    The majority of African Americans fought for whom during the American Revolution? (Match the region from which they hailed & the side for which they fought.)
    New England Blacks on behalf of the Americans
    New England Blacks on behalf of the British
    Southern Blacks on behalf of the Americans
    Southern Blacks on behalf of the British
    Answer: D
  • Sources of Emancipation
    Freedom came quickly for some, slowly for others, depending upon one’s location, one’s owners & one’s will.
    Freedom Suits
    Emancipation via Constitution or Statute
    Gradual Emancipation
    Running Away
    Individual Acts of Manumission
  • Freedom & Slavery Nationwide
  • Freedom & Slavery in the South
  • Freedom & Slavery in the North/West
  • Q2: Free at Last
    Where did the majority of free blacks live in 1790?
    New England
    The Middle Colonies
    The Upper South
    The Deep South
    Answer: C
  • Freedom: North versus South
  • Free But Not Equal
    The revolution did not bring racial egalitarianism, though. Free Africans Americans, both North & South, faced:
    Bodily Harm
    Discrimination grew worse after 1830.
    Scientific Racism
    Rise of Jacksonian Democracy
  • Free Black Political Rights
    For the most part, free blacks encountered discrimination in public spaces & found their political & civil rights limited in both the North & the South.
    Right to Vote
    Right to Serve on Juries & in Military
    Civil Rights in Public Places
    Civil Rights in Private Places
  • Struggle for the Vote
    Paul & John Cuffee refused to pay taxes when they were not allowed to vote (1778-1780). They served jail time for non-payment, but took their case to the Mass Supreme Judicial Court. The Court ruled in 1783 that as tax-payers, the brothers had a right to vote.
    As late as 1860, only New England states granted full political rights to free blacks, rights secured through the persistence & organization of free black activists like Cuffee and their white allies.
    A silhouette of Paul Cuffee, the only known image of the man.
  • The Upside of Freedom
    Though not treated as equals by the vast majority of whites, freedom come with distinct advantages for the free black community:
    Protect family members
    Change employers
    Earn wages & acquire property
    Will property to their descendants
    Participate in abolition movement
  • Free Persons of Color
    CommunityFree African Americans formed tight-knit communities where self-reliance & mutual support became a source of survival & racial pride.
    B. Class
    • Most were “hard working, unschooled, and poor.”
    • Not enough wealthy or professional free blacks to “constitute a separate class.”
    • Nearly all “harbored abolitionist sentiments.”
    • New England & Middle States
    • Upper South
    • Deep South (particularly Charleston & New Orleans).
    • “Overwhelmingly an urban people.”
  • Black Mutual Aid
    Despite revolutionary hopes, free blacks found themselves under assault in the streets & even saw their political rights turned backwards after the 1830s. Noted the Bostonian activist, Prince Hall: “We yet find ourselves, in many respects, in very disagreeable & disadvantageous circumstances; most of which must attend us, so long as we and our children live in America.”
    Took efforts to ameliorate their conditions via:
    Mutual Aid Societies
    Self-improvement Associations
    Negro Convention Movement
    Abolitionist Movement
  • White Images of Free Blacks
  • Miss Dinah
    From Edward Williams Clay’s series of 14 cartoons, called "Life in Philadelphia," which satirized the social conventions adopted by Philadelphia's blacks.Man asks, "Is Miss Dinah at home?She replies, "Yes sir but she berypotickly engaged in washing de dishes."He says, "Ah! I'm sorry I cant have the honour to pay my devours to her. Give her my card."