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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Inquiry on the Color Line
In Response To: Re: Inquiry on the Color Line ()

"Another set of questions involves the role of free people of color in steamboat traffic on the Arkansas and other rivers in the mid-19th."

You might want to take a look at Thomas C. Buchanan's book Black Life on Mississippi- Slaves, Free Blacks and the Western Steamboat World (University of NC Press 2004).
He "paints a more complete picture of the Mississippi, documenting the rich variety of experiences among slaves and free blacks who lived and worked on the lower decks and along the river during slavery, through the Civil War and into emancipation."

Needless to say states through which these rivers flowed had laws to control the activities of those both slave and free who worked on these vessels. This type of employment allowed individuals (both male and female) a level of mobility, autonomy and awareness of what was happening in a larger area, then those who were were less mobile and enslaved in specific areas. There is always the fear that information could be and would be shared.

He does include some information regarding Arkansas.

"Although Memphis marked the northern urban hub of the cotton South, many of its steamboat owners traded with planters in Arkansas, another of the key growth areas of the western cotton ecomony. Working on western steamboats on Arkansas's rivers, however, was not a desirable job. Only 144 free blacks lived in the state in 1860, the smallest population of free blacks in the entire South, a situation due in part to the lack of a sizable city in the state. Boat workers passing through Arkansas would have had ample opportunity to think about the deteriorating plight of of the state's slaves"


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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