AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
The Generic "Free Negro" in early Virginia
The world view and politics of the 17th century Virginia rulers effectively divided the population into white and non-white components. The non-white, or "black" component of colonial Virginia, is in effect described several times in legislative acts. These acts specifically make reference to " Moors, Mohammedans, Infidels, East Indians, Indians, and Negroes". These diverse people were the "black" or "Negro" people of colonial record.
As the local Indian tribes lost military relevance, and individual detribalized Indians entered the English social and economic sphere, the ethnic identity of the Indian lost individual and collective relevance in the eyes of the English. Increasingly ethnic non-whites came to be found in records as free Negroes.
Twentieth century investigators interpreted 17th and 18th century references to the words "Negro" or "Mulatto" to imply African descent. In this manner Native Americans and others became "Free African Americans".
Following the Revolutionary War all non-whites were codified as "blacks" in 1785. In that year the Commonwealth of Virginia, in legislating the proportion of Negro ancestry permissable for one to be a classified as a white person, effectively defined the population as either white or black. It should be noted that the intent of the 1785 racial law was to protect elite families of Virginia from a black racial designation, not because there was an African ancestor in the woodpile, but because of widely known and recognized descent from a " black" woman - Pocahantas.
Legislation authorizing the first census in 1790 provided for a census to be taken of all people "both white and black". Polital correctness in the 20th century embraced an understanding of
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