AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
African-American Charleston: 1810
In 1810 Charleston was an African-American city -- 11,568 slaves and 1,472 free African Americans made up 53.2 percent of the city's population.2 This population displayed a variety of characteristics which were so intricate that they are difficult to categorize. Social groups flowed into one another without clear divisions between them.
The clearest distinctions between Charleston social groups were those distinguishing free African Americans from whites. Whites possessed far more legal and civil rights than free African Americans. Unlike free African Americans, they could vote, testify in court, bring legal charges against any person in the city, and serve on South Carolina juries. Furthermore, whites frequently assaulted free African Americans with no fear of punishment, and some whites even kidnapped free people and sold them into slavery. In short free African Americans could not depend on legal protection, as whites could. Nor could free African Americans enter the world of Charleston political power.3