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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: NY Times ARticle - Free AA's

Hi Sandra:

I was not qualifying free but rather... I wrote... that the product of EARLY colonial interracial unions were not always the result of forced encounters.

I am always uncomfortable with using "absolutes" when discussing the African experience in the Americas. That's why I enjoy Afrigeneas so much. Documenting a person's ancestor adds a new dimension to our American history.

When you first introduced this forum, I remember asking what is the definition of a free person of color. We've come a long way from the widely stereotypic image of privileged, "not to be trusted" mulattos and all those "creole babies" from New Orleans.

Thanks to the regular contributors to your web page, we've discovered that free people came in all colors, lived everywhere in the Americas and then some. The cause of their liberation were many...from self-liberation, to the Spanish courts, to joining pre Civil War armies to the status of their white mother. The New York Times' article discussed one aspect of the origins of free people of color and focused on the Upper South.

I wrote in the above that I was uncomfortable in applying a hard and fast rule to the origins of people of mixed heritage. No one can deny that over the centuries women of color were brutalized and victims of forced encounters and concubinage. (As we still are today). And yet historians both black and white, have pointed to numerous documented situations where this was not the case. Too often the misinformed turn a deaf ear to revered historians like John Hope Franklin and Lerone Bennett. Their words become muffled by strident voices that state unequivocally that our Only legacy is slavery and our various hues are a result of "our women were raped (usually in the "cotton fields") by the man." Any woman in history who mothered a bi-racial child and didn't fall into the category of a victim was branded as wanton...or worse. At the same time, our men were branded as wanton and dangerous to southern white womanhood. Historical documents mentioned in the article and certainly in numerous court documents tell a different story. Rather than fearful or repulsed, these women freely entered into relationships with black men and produced bi-racial children.

Paul Heinegg's important research adds and expands on an another chapter in our history. I sent the article to a friend of mine whose family is from North Carolina and often claimed that their ancestors were always free. We've often discussed this "family lore". How could this be? Perhaps Heinegg's research may hold the key.


K Wyer Lane

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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