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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: FPOC Mobile, AL
In Response To: FPOC Mobile, AL ()

Hello Anne:

Have you researched the Chastagne name and its various spellings in Pensacola? You will find the names of people of color in many archives and on line databases in Escambia County.

The laws in Pensacola and Mobile regarding mixed race French and Spanish were quite different from the rest of the South.... that is until the 1840's. I know that you're familiar with Dr. Midlo Hall's research and books and authors whose works cover that time period.

You pose some interesting questions about the laws preventing Whites marrying people of color and also the Catholic Church's influence.

During the second Spanish interlude, the census records show many households with Whites and Blacks (all shades) living under the same roof with (Surprise!) children described as "mulatto" and as offspring. The 1820 Spanish Census of Pensacola lists many. Also included in the census is Chastang also known as the Widow Trouillet.

In later census you will find the names of free people of color. Many free people of color in particular, Spanish Creoles intermarried with Mobile and Pensacola families. The term Creole when applied to Pensacola and its environs always means a person of mixed heritage of Spanish ancestry.

Were the relationships ever challenged in court? Yes but it wasn't very frequent. One court case shows an ancestor of mine being hauled into court for living in sin with a woman of color.

The much maligned Catholic Church and its role in slavery was an avenue of escape from slavery system. You'll find in Catholic and other archives that pertain to the Lower South, baptisms of black, mulatto, etc The Church believed that everyone had a soul and therefore taught slaves about God. An outcome of teaching a slave about the New Testament meant that they were taught to read. A baptized slave carried more prestige and opened doors to manumission.

At the same time, Spanish had law gave slaves and people of color the right to purchase their own freedom. David Paterson the Manager for Afrigeneas' Slavery Forum wrote an excellent explanation about the rights of slaves under Spanish rule.

You also asked whether the prominence of a man who entered into a liaison with a person of color exempted him from the law. None of my research tells me that this was an absolute truth. Many men who had lasting relationships with women of color (African or mixed) were shopkeepers, sailors, day laborers, fisherman etc. In addition, the Catholic archives show that many of the aligned families of free people of color asked for dispensation to marry (white women) because they were poor.

My response is brief, but I hope that it answered some of your questions. I continue to discover more about my ancestors by reading the history of the era in which they lived. I've recently gone back over old research and found new leads. Armed with a better understanding of history, I can now relaunch a trail that I had previously abandoned.

I also found errors from reliable authors and researchers about various family backgrounds.

Good luck in your search.

K Wyer Lane

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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