Free Blacks... how "free" were they?

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Folk are always bringing up that "free blacks" were in, or somehow "joined" the Confederate Army. I am curious as to how much "freedom" they actually had in the slave South? Folk seem to throw that term "free blacks" around like those who were free, had special privileges.Did they?
Kevin Dally





Mountain out of a molehill. The phrase as used at the time obviously referred to blacks who were not Slaves.

Free is a relative term, as in was a 'free' black in Ohio more, less or the same Free as a slave in Kentucky? As to 'how' free they were can one logically deduce which would more likely exchange places with the other?
 

CLuckJD

Private
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Location
MS, USA
Subjective. ... Putting the word in quotations presupposes 150 years later all are still suspect. Why?

For very good cause you identified by your on question as to why. "Freedom" has always been relative and subjective, whether back then or today, especially as we Black folks have yet to experience it's true essence in the US of A. So the OPer was correct to enclose the phrase "free blacks" within double quotes. In fact, I would suggest two more steps by strike-out lines through the first term, with a question mark in parentheses right after and just before "blacks," which should be capitalized.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
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Location
Central Pennsylvania
For very good cause you identified by your on question as to why. "Freedom" has always been relative and subjective, whether back then or today, especially as we Black folks have yet to experience it's true essence in the US of A. So the OPer was correct to enclose the phrase "free blacks" within double quotes. In fact, I would suggest two more steps by strike-out lines through the first term, with a question mark in parentheses right after and just before "blacks," which should be capitalized.


Agreed. What's always bugged me is how much discussions can focus on the ' legal ' dodge enabling anyone to feel a human being could be ' owned ', hence 'free' was necessary differentiating ' legal' status. It's this " legal " thing, another word requiring quotes. Excusatory term meaning someone figured out how to get er, free labor.

A common narrative seems to be well heck, enslaved were freed, the Civil War is over, ex-enslaved can just go on with their lives. The End- except it wasn't, as you so beautifully elucidated.
 

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
I think the very fact that they were black put them at a great social disadvantage, whether we are talking in the North or the South. But especially in the South where the institution of slavery was reserved exclusively for the African descendants.
With that said, I feel they had 2 advantages by siding with the Confederacy:
1. If the South won the war, they would be put in a better situation having fought for the winning side.
2. If the North won the war, they could say "but we were pressured to fight" or things would've gone bad for us.
Either scenario, that would've been their play. This, of course, is solely my opinion.
It's just human nature to look out after one's best interest.
 

ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
Folk are always bringing up that "free blacks" were in, or somehow "joined" the Confederate Army. I am curious as to how much "freedom" they actually had in the slave South? Folk seem to throw that term "free blacks" around like those who were free, had special privileges.
Did they?

It's useful to understand what it meant to be "free," if you were of African descent. A free black person was somebody who wasn't owned by a master. A master was somebody who owned black bodies and controlled, or could control, the social and economic lives of the enslaved. A "free" black was simply somebody who was not owned.

A free black was NOT somebody who enjoyed the same rights and privileges of free whites. In fact, the opposite was true, almost universally: free whites had rights and privileges that were routinely denied to free blacks.

Presently, we equate freedom with equality. That was not true in the 19th century. For example, white women were free, but they did not have equal rights as men had. This was considered the norm.

In the 19th century, it was normal to deprive people of rights and privileges based on gender and ethnic ancestry. Women and African Americans suffering such deprivations were free according to the parlance of the time. But it was accepted, certainly by those in power, that those people would not be equal.

- Alan
 
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Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
It's useful to understand what it meant to be "free," if you were of African descent. A free black persons was somebody who wasn't owned by a master. A master was somebody who owned black bodies and controlled, or could control, the social and economic lives of the enslaved. A "free" black was simply somebody who was not owned.

A free black was NOT somebody who enjoyed the same rights and privileges of free whites. In fact, the opposite was true, almost universally: free whites had rights and privileges that were routinely denied to free blacks.

Presently, we equate freedom with equality. That was not true in the 19th century. For example, white women were free, but they did not have equal rights as men had. This was considered the norm.

In the 19th century, it was normal to deprive people of rights and privileges based on gender and ethnic ancestry. Women and African Americans suffering such deprivations were free according to the parlance of the time. But it was accepted, certainly by those in power, that those people would not be equal.

- Alan
Those are some good points.
Native Americans are another good example of a race of people who had little to no rights in a free society. Also, the Chinese that were used to help build the American West.
 

Y2KBYTZ

Cadet
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
How many of the "free blacks" in Ohio were actually free and not fugitive slaves, who by law should have been returned ?

Wasn't the law of posting a bond by blacks entering into Ohio, just as bad as changing the laws to unjustly enslave a free black, especially as you stated "The bond was very expensive" knowing the biggest majority of "free" blacks would not have the money to pay the bond ?....................I think South and North used a lot of underhanded and evil minded laws to keep blacks either as slaves or keep them out of a state...................due to racism.



View attachment 93180
Respectfully,
William
For Real!!! When in fact they were really free kidnapped folks in the first place..... but that's a whole other story too. Sorry for letting my common sense get in the way. It is interesting how the states wanted to end slavery, but didn't want them showing up on their door step.
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
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Location
South Carolina
Do those folks ever have citations specifically about these "free blacks?" It sounds like opinion to me. I can cite references that free and formerly enslaved blacks joined the Union. Where are comparative references for the Confederacy?

A lot of the newspaper coverage about black participation in the war is about the free black population in the South. They volunteered to work, they volunteered to fight, and they gave money to the cause. Sometimes they held benefit concerts to raise money for the men in the field. The ladies sewed clothing for the soldiers.

A few examples, and I could provide many, many more:

- 150 free black men of Charleston (about 10% of that cities free black men in 1861) volunteered to work for free on coastal defenses - Charleston Mercury January 3 1861
-
an unnamed free black man of Columbia volunteered to go with a military company as a servant of a young man whose family had once owned his ancestors -The daily exchange. (Baltimore, Md.) 1858-1861, January 11, 1861
- A large number of the free black men of Columbia volunteered their services in any capacity to the governor of South Carolina, saying they owe allegiance to SC and look to the state for protection - Rome tri-weekly courier. (Rome, Ga.) 1860-1881, January 19, 1861
- A free black barber named Joe Clark, a veteran of the Creek War of 1836, offered to raise a company of fellow free black men to fight in Georgia's defense. The newspaper calls his offer patriotic, even if one did not approve of black soldiers. - The daily dispatch. (Richmond [Va.]) 1850-1884, January 29, 1861
-
The men who would go on to form the 1st Louisiana Native Guard are noted as having offered to fight for Louisiana as they did in 1812-1814. Cincinnati daily press. (Cincinnati [Ohio]) 1860-1862, January 05, 1861
 
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unionblue

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Member of the Year
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Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
A lot of the newspaper coverage about black participation in the war is about the free black population in the South. They volunteered to work, they volunteered to fight, and they gave money to the cause. Sometimes they held benefit concerts to raise money for the men in the field. The ladies sewed clothing for the soldiers.

A few examples, and I could provide many, many more:

- 150 free black men of Charleston (about 10% of that cities free black men in 1861) volunteered to work for free on coastal defenses - Charleston Mercury January 3 1861
-
an unnamed free black man of Columbia volunteered to go with a military company as a servant of a young man whose family had once owned his ancestors -The daily exchange. (Baltimore, Md.) 1858-1861, January 11, 1861
- A large number of the free black men of Columbia volunteered their services in any capacity to the governor of South Carolina, saying they owe allegiance to SC and look to the state for protection - Rome tri-weekly courier. (Rome, Ga.) 1860-1881, January 19, 1861
- A free black barber named Joe Clark, a veteran of the Creek War of 1836, offered to raise a company of fellow free black men to fight in Georgia's defense. The newspaper calls his offer patriotic, even if one did not approve of black soldiers. - The daily dispatch. (Richmond [Va.]) 1850-1884, January 29, 1861
-
The men who would go on to form the 1st Louisiana Native Guard are noted as having offered to fight for Louisiana as they did in 1812-1814. Cincinnati daily press. (Cincinnati [Ohio]) 1860-1862, January 05, 1861

And yet most of us here were led to believe these newspaper articles were only research on what newspapers said, not that they were proof of anything.

Why the change?
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
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And yet most of us here were led to believe these newspaper articles were only research on what newspapers said, not that they were proof of anything.

Why the change?

Four years into collecting and researching those stories, it's safe to assume that I have reached some conclusions about some of them. Otherwise, what's the point?
 
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unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Four years into collecting and researching those stories, it's safe to assume that I have reached some conclusions about some of them. Otherwise, what's the point?

My point is a "research thread" holds the high ground in that it supposedly cannot be debated or distracted from simply because it is supposed to be considered a neutral source, merely presenting "what the newspapers said" and not taking one side or another of the issue.

Have you now changed your position on that thread? You now feel you can "step out" from behind the safety of "research" and say this is your conclusion, that all these articles point to a specific point or personal view?
 

Andersonh1

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Moderator
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My point is a "research thread" holds the high ground in that it supposedly cannot be debated or distracted from simply because it is supposed to be considered a neutral source, merely presenting "what the newspapers said" and not taking one side or another of the issue.

This is not that research thread.

Have you now changed your position on that thread? You now feel you can "step out" from behind the safety of "research" and say this is your conclusion, that all these articles point to a specific point or personal view?

There is a separate discussion thread, which anyone can use at any time to discuss what is posted in the main thread. Very few have availed themselves of the opportunity, but it's here: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/bl...ewspapers-said-1861-1865.153616/#post-1966355
 
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Joined
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Location
mo
Agreed. What's always bugged me is how much discussions can focus on the ' legal ' dodge enabling anyone to feel a human being could be ' owned ', hence 'free' was necessary differentiating ' legal' status. It's this " legal " thing, another word requiring quotes. Excusatory term meaning someone figured out how to get er, free labor.

A common narrative seems to be well heck, enslaved were freed, the Civil War is over, ex-enslaved can just go on with their lives. The End- except it wasn't, as you so beautifully elucidated.
The problem with your view is it ignores actual history. It's like statue removal, ignoring history, or pretending it never happened doesn't change history at all.

If one is studying history, particularly the history of slavery, one indeed has to recognize it was indeed legal. It was commonly accepted a human being could indeed be owned. Not just by the Confederacy, or just by the United States, but most the world for centuries.

History is the study of what was.......I don't really get this move history should be what you wish it was
 
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