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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: FPOC - Here Comes De Judge!

Another aspect of the color consciousness issue can be found amongst the records we view in our research. Frequently color is codified according to the perception of the recorder, whereby the more successful FPOCs may be listed a mulatto rather than black. Or, in cases of low status, that whole families are listed as black even though one or two members may be mulatto, mixed in appearance or of a lighter complextion.

As I go through court records, I've tried to read between the lines and note if the description signifies something more.

On the other hand, I guess the record keepers were trying to find a way to systematically distinguish one FPOC from another. In Norfolk, especially with the free registers, I have gotten a better sense of what some people looked like, because they included height, sometimes descriptions of stature and even included eye color and hair texture. However I noticed that hair texture was usually provided for those of fair complexion and "bushy" hair. This was so say, I guess, that although this person had light skin, they still had the "mark of the African" upon them. I've even found descriptions of "white" FPOC, detailing straight or curling hair and blue or green eyes. For the remainder of the population, the term "black" was enough to complete the description beyond height and gender.

I haven't found a consistency in this recording, at least not through the periods I'm researching from the late 1780's to the 1840's. Perhaps the records also reflect indirectly the increasing consciousness of whites about African traits and physical descriptions.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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