AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
Re: The First Free Blacks?
In Response To: The First Free Blacks? ()
Thank you Selma:
Your response to Virginia's question referencing the URL and book helped to expand my knowledge of Free People of Color in North Carolina and Virginia.
It also reminded me that I needed to re-read John Hope Franklin's book "The Free Negro in North Carolina 1790-1860." Mixed race people were only part of the free population. However it is important to note that Franklin writes that one contributing factor to the increase of free Negroes in North Carolina were white women. The mother often determined a person's free/enslaved status. In "Before the Mayflower", Lerone Bennett, Jr. writes that Colonial Virginia "swarmed with mulatto children." "This was not, as some historians would have us believe, the results of the casual exploitation of black women." "...the largest part of such race mixture was due to the union of black males and white females."
The beginning chapters of "Before the Mayflower", tells us that the first Blacks in the Upper South were not slaves but indentured servants. Antonio arrived in 1621; John Pedro in 1623, and in 1623 or 1624, Isabella gave birth to the first black child in Jamestown. If your ancestors were from this area, then a study of the history of colonial records might shed some light as to why your grandmother claimed that your ancestors were "always free."
Historians point to Lord Dunmore as an example of how Blacks obtained their freedom. Dunmore "... the deposed royal governor of Virginia had issued a proclamation offering freedom to all slaves who were willing and able to bear arms for England. There is lots of historical research about slaves winning their freedom by serving in American wars.
Immigration of free Africans to the Americas (Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, the northern states etc) is well documented. Why would they want to come to a country steeped in slavery? I don't know the answer, but they did. The Haitian Revolution brought many free people of color to the ports of Louisiana and the Floridas.
Virginia, these are just a few of many documented examples as to how people of color gained or always had their freedom. There is no one answer to the complex history of slavery in the Americas. The often erroneous and rigid template of slavery that has been drummed into our heads...of passive, ignorant and helpless people blocks the true history of our presence in the Americas.
Listed below is the URL for Afrigeneas' Slavery Forum Manager, David Paterson. His commentary on the rights of slaves in the Spanish Colonial South is a "must read" in understanding slavery in the Lower South.
K Wyer Lane
History never lies, only the people who interpret it.
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