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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: "Free" vs. "Freed".
In Response To: Re: "Free" vs. "Freed". ()

Hi Carmen. You make a good point about free vs freed. People whose ancestors had been free since the colonial period did not develop an African American slave culture. Some were actually descendants of slaves freed in the 1600s before the slaves formed their new culture here in the U.S. Most descended from ancestors who had been raised by white English mothers and many probably spoke and thought like their mother.
However, after 1782 when emancipation was allowed in Virginia, many individuals from families free since the colonial period married freed slaves.

As to Indians being ranked second in a hierarchy, I have not come across a single Indian community in the colonial or pre-Civil War period in any area I researched. There were Indian slaves in Virginia in the same condition as African slaves. They did gain some benefit after the Revolution when anyone who could prove they were descended from an Indian woman could sue for their freedom. However, once they were free, they were in the same social level as freed African slaves with whom they had mixed since colonial times. There was no difference between a slave freed by his master for religious reasons and one freed because he or she could prove descent from an Indian.
The Indian communities were invented after the Civil War and had nothing to do with Indian ancestry. All free people of color suffered a loss of caste with emancipation since they were put in the same caste as the former slaves. Some families that had been free since colonial times refused to go to school with the newly freed slaves and in some counties managed to get the authorities to call them Indians in exchange for their votes for Jim Crow legislation.
In many counties those who had been free since colonial times did not even think of calling themselves Indians until the 1900s. In Person County, N.C., they were called "old issue free Negroes" or "Cubans" even "Mongolians" until 1908 when they became Indians. In Sussex County, Delaware, they called themselves "a certain class of colored people" in 1881 but became Nanticoke Indians in the 1900s after being visited by anthropologists looking for lost Indian tribes.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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