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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Who were Free People of Color?

This been an interesting thread to read. If I may add (for reference purposes only); with regard to slavery one of the conditions of slavery is that heredity was through the mother. If the mother's condition changed i.e. she was set free, then the children would follow the condition of the mother.

An example is that of my wife's great great grandmother, Eliza Hickman born to a slave woman Fanny and slave owner Paschal Hickman. In the "Acts Passed by the General Assembly of Georgia", information is provided on the "Act to manumit and set free" Fanny Hickman "declared to be free, and entitled to all the priviledges and immunities appertaining to free persons of colour [sic] generally in this State" (Georgia). The documents goes on to describe the "intermarriage" with Fanny and Paschal and that children were born to this union/relationship "are herby declared to be free, and placed on the same footing that free persons of colour [sic] are usuallly placed in the State." December 22, 1834. (there were several states that passed anti-miscegenation laws and I'm working on how this one slipped through the cracks).

In the state of Georgia, manumission had to go before the General Assembly of Georgia and FPOCs were governed based on the laws of the state of Georgia.

As mentioned previously, regarding census enumeration, by 1840 this family was enumerated as Free Colored Persons.

A different example is my wife's great great grandfather Henry Mayhew born to free parents in 1822 Illinois (husband of the above mentioned Eliza Hickman) is documented in a register of freedom in Clinton County, Illinois 1852. I would infer that this was in response to the Compromise of 1850 (fugitive slave provision)--enformcement of the Fugitive Slave Act which made it difficult not only for run away slaves but for free persons of color. Slave Catchers or Blackbirders would terrorize free black communities and kidnap free blacks and sell them into slavery. So, this register of freedom may have been an attempt to reinforce the idea of free persons of color having protective rights--and I must be careful because chief justice Taney stated that blacks slave nor free were not and could not be citizens of the United States via the Scott decision of 1857.

Within historical context, one must view being "free" and being a "citizen" as two different things. Some Revolutionary era state constitutions did not exclude free blacks from voting, however Southern states entering the union after 1789 excluded blacks and from 1810 to 1838 free blacks were either disenfranchised or heavy restrictions were placed on them in order to vote i.e. a residency requirement and/or property value requirement i.e. New York. Keep in mind though as free persons, they were expected to carry the same burdens as other free people bore i.e. taxes. In some cases there may have been additional burdens placed on free persons of color--this depended on the state in which they lived.

Based on law; based on practice; based on the Supreme Courts decision, a free person of color's free status or lack thereof was based on his/her relative time and place under the authority of those in power.

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Who were Free People of Color?
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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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