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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: The First Free Blacks?
In Response To: The First Free Blacks? ()

I have always had problems with the statement that "the first blacks in the Upper South specifically VA, were not slaves but indentured sevants", I think the best you can say is that "some" were indentured servants, because you see them appearing in early records, identified by name and doing those things that folk did during that time period. Antonio might have arrived in 1623 but according to the census of March 1620 there were already "32 Negroes, not christian (15 men and 17 females)in the service of several planters" Slavery was already raging in the Carribbean and South America with the Portugese, Spanish and Dutch and quite profitably (with PROFIT being the key word here)..I have to believe that the English were looking for a way to get a piece of the pie, as it were.

I have no doubt that Colonial Virginia swarmed with mulatto children and I do believe that they were "the casual exploitation of black women", the question is not that they were "mulatto chidren" but whether or not they were "free", and to have that status after 1662 (1662 Act XII Children got by and Englishman upon a Negro woman shall be bound or free according to the condition of the mother), you must have been born of a "free mother". For that time period the majority of free women were white, and by and large indentured themselves. The fact that in 1691 VA passed a law which stated that "any free english woman being free shall have a bastard child by a Negro she shall pay fifteen pounds to the church wardens, an in default of payment indentured for another 5 years and the child indentured until the age of 30 (with a life span of 40 years don't leave too much time) means that this was a behavior that was occuring and had reached a point of serious concern It obviously continued to be a problem because another law was again passed in 1705 (children's indentured increased to 31 years), and again in 1753. In 1765 indenture of the children was reduced to males 21, females 18.

It is these families that Heinneg traces in his book, from the Colonial Period onward, by the time you get to the late 1700's and early 1800's there are various avenues to freedom, emancipation by will or deed, self purchase.

But if you are going to research your families is not at this point that you start, you still start like everyone else from yourself and what you know and weave your way back......I can assure you it will be intersting.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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