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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Composition of free community

Hi Sandra. On the composition of the free community after the colonial period, I don't have direct evidence. But I notice that in Virginia well into 1820 most manumissions appear to have been motivated by religious reasons rather than paternity. However, I cannot back this up with statistics. It's just my impression from reading the Virginia Free Negro Registers and court minutes. If their family had been free for some time they're usually described as "Mulatto" complexion; if manumitted, usually dark-skinned. Also, a few large planters such as Pleasants and Mayo freed all their slaves, accounting for an increase in hundreds of people to the free population.

So consider that there were thousands in Virginia descended from familes free since the colonial period, add several hundreds freed by just a few planters for religious reasons, and it would have taken quite a number freed for paternity to have had a major effect on the population.

In North Carolina, it's easier. They always maintained restrictions on manumissions, so there were relatively few. Most "free colored" families counted in the 1820 North Carolina census originated in Virginia during the colonial period.

Here's a quote from the Perquimans County, North Carolina court minutes, January 1785: The sheriff made a return to court of Sundry Negroes manumitted by Quakers in express violation of the law... sheriff expose to sale to the highest bidder ... (another case) sheriff to sell Negroe man Ephraim manumitted contrary to law (another case) sheriff sell Harry, formerly the property of John Anderson; Dinah formerly of Joshiah Moore; Lucy and her child taken up as free, etc. There's case after case of these through 1788 [Minutes 1784-9, 38, 43, 64, 66, 110, 238, 243, 254, 258, 286].
Paul


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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