Pre-Civil War Free Blacks Owned Slaves. Is that significant?

Old_Glory

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I tend to agree. Slavery, in the end, was a means to make money. It cost money to invest in the system, and that was largely done with the expectation of making a return on the investment. A larger group of slaves suggests ownership with goals beyond that of protecting immediate family.

In any case, if a black slave owner had enough money to buy relatives, why would he buy them and keep them enslaved? Why not buy and free them?
What other reason is there for slavery in America other than to make money? We may be able to find how many owned slaves, but we will never know how many would have if they had the money to do so (or could make money off their labor).

I certainly hope there aren't many rational people who believe there were other major reasons beyond profit. The fact that free men of color and white men both owned slaves in the South shows this to be true. That is significant.
 

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jgoodguy

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Ira Berlin in his book Slaves Without Masters has a list of the state manumission laws. Roughly, after 1830 in some instances and 1850 in others, the states of Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and Delaware did not prohibit manumission by owners; no special request to the legislature or the courts was required. Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina (until 1861), and Tennessee required the slave owner to petition the court. South Carolina required a petition to the legislature while Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi did not allow manumission. Texas allowed manumission as long as it was done outside of the state while Maryland and Virginia's manumitted slaves were required to leave the state.
In support
Emancipators, Protectors, and Anomalies: Free Black Slaveowners in Virginia.
Legal and political conditions changed dramatically by 1806, however,​
making it necessary for many free blacks to hold slaves to assure their​
own continued residence in Virginia. Alarmed by the increasing presence​
of unenslaved, and therefore harder-to-control, Afro-Americans in the​
Old Dominion, legislators decided that future beneficiaries of emancipation​
would have to leave the commonwealth within twelve months of​
their change of status or else be reenslaved and sold for the benefit of the​
poor. Inconsistent enforcement of this provision only underlined the​
vulnerability of former slaves even as it spared some of them from​
expulsion or being returned to bondage ... Nor were legislators satisfied​
with subsequent laws that allowed emancipated people to petition the​
legislature or their county's or city's court for permission to remain. The​
possibility that the presence of numerous free blacks had encouraged, and​
that specific free blacks had supported, Nat Turner's Rebellion con-​
vinced the assembly to reduce the control free blacks had over slaves.​
After 1832, Negroes CQuld acquire no rriore slaves, except spouses,​
children, or those gained "by descent." The Code of 1849 added parents​
to these exceptions, but in 1858, acting in an atmosphere of sectional​
crisis and perhaps e~boldened by the United States Supreme Court's​
pronouhcement against black citizenship in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857),​
the legislature took away what little security free blacks might hope to​
give to relatives in the future. Thereafter, Afro-Virginians could no​
longer buy family members. 7​
7 Samuel Shepherd, ed., Statutes at Large of Virginia, from October Session 1792, to December Session 1806,
Inclusive ... (3 vols.; Richmond, 1835-36), III, 251-53; Winthrop D. Jordan , White Over Black: American
Attitudes Towards the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill, 1968), pp. 565-69; Johnston, Race Relations in Virginia,
pp. 42-71; Theodore Stoddard Babcock, "Manumission in Virginia, 1782-1806" (M.A. thesis, University of
Virginia, 1974); David St. Clair Lowman, "Unwanted Residents: The Plight of the Emancipated Slave in
Virginia, 1806---1835" (M.A. thesis, College of William and Mary, 1977); Richard S. Dunn, "Black Society in
the Chesapeake, 1776---1810," in Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, eds., Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the
American Revolution, Perspectives on the American Revolution (Charlottesville, 1983), pp. 49-82; Berlin,
Slaves Without Masters, pp. 146---48, 351-56, 360-80; June Purcell Guild, Black Laws of Virginia ...
(Richmond, 1936), pp. 96---118; Stephen B. Oates, The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion (New
York, Evanston, and San Francisco, 1975), pp. 147-61; Henry Irving Tragle, comp., The Southampton Slave
Revolt of 1831 : A Compilation of Source Material (Amherst, Mass., 1971), pp. 429-62; Acts Passed at a General
Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia . . . , 1831- 32, pp. 20-22, 1857-58, p. 46; Code of Virginia , 1849,
p. 458. The constitution of 1851 declared that the "general assembly shall not emancipate any slave, or the
descendant of any slave, either before or after the birth of such descendant" (Code of Virginia, 1860, p. 46).
Another indication of the economic vulnerability of free black Virginians is the significant number of black
children whom county courts bound out to apprenticeships for no other stated reason than that the children
were black (James W. Ely, Jr., " There are few subjects in political economy of greater difficulty': The Poor
Laws of the Antebellum South," American Bar Foundation, Research Journal [1985], 867-68).
 
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To discuss the topic "Pre-Civil War Free Blacks Owned Slaves. Is that significant?" a couple of terms are useful to note.

Wikipedia discusses the term "structure":

In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. On the macro scale, social structure is the system of socioeconomic stratification (most notably the class structure), social institutions, or, other patterned relations between large social groups. On the meso scale, it is the structure of social network ties between individuals or organizations. On the micro scale, it can be the way norms shape the behavior of individuals within the social system.​
The notion of social structure as relationship between different entities or groups or as enduring and relatively stable patterns of relationship[3] emphasises the idea that society is grouped into structurally related groups or sets of roles, with different functions, meanings or purposes. One example of social structure is the idea of "social stratification", which refers to the idea that most societies are separated into different strata (levels), guided (if only partially) by the underlying structures in the social system. This approach has been important in the academic literature with the rise of various forms of structuralism.​
Social structure may be seen to influence important social systems including the economic system, legal system, political system, cultural system, and others. Family, religion, law, economy, and class are all social structures. The "social system" is the parent system of those various systems that are embedded in it.​

The other is intersectionality:

”Intersectionality“ represents an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.​
Intersectionality considers that various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together. ...today the analysis is potentially applied to all social categories, including social identities usually seen as dominant when considered independently.​
*******

In 1857, in a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court said that people of African descent were not, and could never be, considered citizens of the United States. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Taney stated:

It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted. But the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken.

They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.

{The negro} was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics which no one thought of disputing or supposed to be open to dispute, and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.

According to Judge Taney's interpretation, the supreme law of the land was that the white race was supreme.

It is widely believed that in the 19th century, "people believed that slavery was acceptable." That is not accurate. Of course many people believed it to be unacceptable But even in the South, it was not believed that slavery was acceptable. Rather, it was acceptable for people of African descent to be enslaved; and unacceptable for people of (pure) European descent. As Taney put, the Negroes were "beings of an inferior order... so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his (the white man's) benefit." Whites, who were not inferior, were not to be reduced to slavery.

This view was widely articulated. Notably, the Texas Secession Declaration states:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy {by this they mean the United States} itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.​
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.​
Clearly, white themselves made it clear that enslavement was race-based. Blacks could be enslaved, whites could not. No limits were placed on who could own slaves among the free population.

=continued=
 

jgoodguy

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To discuss the topic "Pre-Civil War Free Blacks Owned Slaves. Is that significant?" a couple of terms are useful to note.

Wikipedia discusses the term "structure":

In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. On the macro scale, social structure is the system of socioeconomic stratification (most notably the class structure), social institutions, or, other patterned relations between large social groups. On the meso scale, it is the structure of social network ties between individuals or organizations. On the micro scale, it can be the way norms shape the behavior of individuals within the social system.​
The notion of social structure as relationship between different entities or groups or as enduring and relatively stable patterns of relationship[3] emphasises the idea that society is grouped into structurally related groups or sets of roles, with different functions, meanings or purposes. One example of social structure is the idea of "social stratification", which refers to the idea that most societies are separated into different strata (levels), guided (if only partially) by the underlying structures in the social system. This approach has been important in the academic literature with the rise of various forms of structuralism.​
Social structure may be seen to influence important social systems including the economic system, legal system, political system, cultural system, and others. Family, religion, law, economy, and class are all social structures. The "social system" is the parent system of those various systems that are embedded in it.​

The other is intersectionality:

”Intersectionality“ represents an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.​
Intersectionality considers that various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together. ...today the analysis is potentially applied to all social categories, including social identities usually seen as dominant when considered independently.​
*******

In 1857, in a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court said that people of African descent were not, and could never be, considered citizens of the United States. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Taney stated:

It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted. But the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken.

They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.

{The negro} was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics which no one thought of disputing or supposed to be open to dispute, and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.

According to Judge Taney's interpretation, the supreme law of the land was that the white race was supreme.

It is widely believed that in the 19th century, "people believed that slavery was acceptable." That is not accurate. Of course many people believed it to be unacceptable But even in the South, it was not believed that slavery was acceptable. Rather, it was acceptable for people of African descent to be enslaved; and unacceptable for people of (pure) European descent. As Taney put, the Negroes were "beings of an inferior order... so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his (the white man's) benefit." Whites, who were not inferior, were not to be reduced to slavery.

This view was widely articulated. Notably, the Texas Secession Declaration states:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy {by this they mean the United States} itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.​
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.​
Clearly, white themselves made it clear that enslavement was race-based. Blacks could be enslaved, whites could not. No limits were placed on who could own slaves among the free population.

=continued=
In short Taney rules that Blacks as noncitizens could not own slaves.
 

jgoodguy

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Emancipators, Protectors, and Anomalies: Free Black Slaveowners in Virginia.
few Afro-Virginians owned several other members of their race for 'profit. The​
number who owned six or more for any reason in 1830 was.forty-one; that​
includes both fraternal and commercial owners and again is.lprobably an​
overcount. 8​

8 Woodson, Free Negro Owners of Slaves; U. S. Census Office, The Statistics of the Population of the United
States, Vol. I: Population and Social Statistics (Washington, D. C., 1872), pp. 68-72.
 
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In 1860 slightly more then 1% of whites in the United States owned slaves, is that insignificant also?
The percentages of slave ownership is often much higher on a state-by-state basis. According to the 1860 census 49% of Mississippi households, 44% of South Carolinian households, and 37% of Georgia households owned slaves.

I suppose one could make the argument that the percentage of slave ownership among whites was insignificant, but only if census results are ignored. Even Delaware, the slave state with the fewest amount of people in bondage in 1860, had a slightly higher percentage of slave ownership than free blacks (3%). It was 13% in Missouri, the slave state after Delaware with the lowest percentage of slave ownership.

Nationally, excluding territories that were not yet states, the percentage of households owning slaves was 8%.
 
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=continued from post 105=

Social institutions and social structures are created by people. Social structures refer to hierarchies that have been created by people within societies.

In societies, some people have more power to create and enforce social institutions and social structures than others. In monarchies, kings and queens have much more power than their subjects, or including lords or other people with higher status.

When Judge Taney wrote his opinion in the Dred Scott case, and the state of Texas wrote the secession declaration, they made in unequivocally clear: slavery was designed for white people to make profit from black people, by treating black people like property. Black people had no say in this. Slavery was for the benefit of the white race.
********

David Walker {1785-1830} is somewhat famous in some circles. He authored the famous anti-slavery tract "Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles..." which was published in 1829. The website DocSouth made this summary of the document:

David Walker was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to a free mother and an enslaved father. Some sources date his birth to 1785 while others suggest that 1796 is more likely. Walker was an outspoken black abolitionist, and he put his fiery thoughts to paper in his famous Appeal (1829).​
Walker targeted his emotional tract most specifically to free black northerners and southern slaves, but he also addressed northern whites and slave masters who would likely read the subversive pamphlet out of curiosity. Walker pushed for immediate emancipation rather than the gradualist approaches or colonization schemes of white anti-slavery groups such as the North Carolina Manumission Society.​
Walker saved his most incendiary rhetoric, however, for his southern audience. He urged slaves to rebel en masse, posing the question: "had you not rather be killed than to be slave to a tyrant?" (p. 30). Walker's publication terrified already paranoid white masters, and about them Walker notes "if they do not have enough to be frightened for yet, it will be" (p. 37).​

In his Appeal, Walker directed ire at an enslaved woman who was in a slave coffle in Kentucky. Several of the enslaved people in the coffle managed to overpower their white captors and run into the woods. Walker wrote that "Sixteen of the negroes then took to the woods; (one of the captors), in the mean time, not being materially injured, was enabled, by the assistance of one of the women, to mount his horse and flee."

Walker could not contain his anger:

Here my brethren, I want you to notice particularly in the above article, the ignorant and deceitful actions of this coloured woman. I beg you to view it candidly, as for ETERNITY!!!!​
Here a notorious wretch, {IE, one of the captors} with two other confederates had SIXTY of them {enslaved people} in a gang, driving them like brutes--the men all in chains and hand-cuffs, and by the help of God they got their chains and hand-cuffs thrown off, and caught two of the wretches and put them to death, and beat the other until they thought he was dead, and left him for dead; however, he deceived them, and rising from the ground, this servile woman helped him upon his horse, and he made his escape. Brethren, what do you think of this? Was it the natural fine feelings of this woman, to save such a wretch alive?

He continued:

Let no one say that I assert this because I am prejudiced on the side of my colour, and against the whites or Europeans. For what I write, I do it candidly, for my God and the good of both parties: Natural observations have taught me these things; there is a solemn awe in the hearts of the blacks, as it respects murdering men:* whereas the whites, (though they are great cowards) where they have the advantage, or think that there are any prospects of getting it, they murder all before them, in order to subject men to wretchedness and degradation under them.​
This is the natural result of pride and avarice. But I declare, the actions of this black woman are really insupportable. For my own part, I cannot think it was any thing but servile deceit, combined with the most gross ignorance: for we must remember that humanity, kindness and the fear of the Lord, does not consist in protecting devils.​
* Which is the reason the whites take the advantage of us.​
Historian Calvin Schermerhorn talked about Walker and those comments in his book Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South. He talks about Hinton, an enslaved woman, and Omohundro, a slave trader who was 20 years her senior. Omohundro's business included the occasional "fancy girls": light-skinned mulattoes who were sold in "the sex trade."

Hinton, who was light enough to pass as white, might well have wound up like other "fancy girls." But Omohundro took a liking to her (the feeling might certainly have been mutual), and she became his concubine. In fact, when traveling, Omohundro sometimes introduced Hinton as his wife. They had five children together.

Hinton is known to have helped Omohundro conduct his business. Schermerhorn writes "in 1855, for instance, Omohundro gave her nearly $600 to buy 'Negro clothing' for slaves awaiting sale in his jail."

Shermerhorn says that Hinton surely understood that she was aiding and abetting an enterprise that enslaved people like her. But her life with Omohundro was surely preferable to a life as a sex slave, for example. To use a phrase of Harriet Jacob, Hinton was "one of God's most powerless creatures." Note that, Hinton identified herself as white in the 1860 and 1870 Census.

I mentioned the term intersectionality in a previous post

”Intersectionality“ represents an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.​
Intersectionality considers that various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together. ...today the analysis is potentially applied to all social categories, including social identities usually seen as dominant when considered independently.​
Hinton's actions took place at the intersection of hierarchies of race, status (free or slave), gender, and also, color. Her color ~ she was able to pass for white ~ gave her an opportunity that was not available to darker women.

Hinton may well have thought that slavery was evil, but there was nothing she could do about it. David Walker would no doubt have characterized her actions as "servile deceit, combined with the most gross ignorance." But for Hinton, resistance was futile. This was the best life her powerlessness could afford her.

=continued=

- Alan
 

byron ed

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...In any case, if a black slave owner had enough money to buy relatives, why would he buy them and keep them enslaved? Why not buy and free them?
It was understood at the time that to free slaves point blank was not being especially kind to them. In some cases owner's wills would specify a length of time that would enable a slave to be not only free but capable of independent success; two years or so to develop skills or a weasel enough to independently make a living.* It was a genuinely compassionate concern even if it resulted in longer bondage, if one can bring themselves to see it that way.

It has been said that the slaveholding South had a more knowledgeable and compassionate understanding of the consequences of immediate emancipation than the North did. Southerners knew sudden emancipation would be hard on many of the emancipated, now suddenly unprepared and ill-equipped to start from scratch. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy to consider the mayhem that unreconstructed Confederates unleashed during reconstruction, though that is not to be put on the majority of white Southerners.

Also to note that Northern bungling in reconstruction was nearly as bad for the emancipated. Such a high floor of expectation was built that when the trap door finally dropped (when the nation's professed righteous commitment to rehabilitation faded) the fall was somewhat harsher for the emancipated.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* Lee's father-in-law specified such conditions regarding freeing the slaves of his estate, to be carried out by Lee as head of household. It took legal action to force Lee to carry those wishes out, however soft on slavery Lee professed to be.
 
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WJC

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What other reason is there for slavery in America other than to make money? We may be able to find how many owned slaves, but we will never know how many would have if they had the money to do so (or could make money off their labor).

I certainly hope there aren't many rational people who believe there were other major reasons beyond profit. The fact that free men of color and white men both owned slaves in the South shows this to be true. That is significant.
Yes, the purpose of slavery was for the owner to gain from the labor of the enslaved. That's pretty well understood, regardless of time or culture.
As to why Free Blacks would own slaves, we most certainly can assume (with some risk of being wrong) that they wanted to gain from the labor of the enslaved. If one was a Freeman - of any color- in the antebellum south, the equivalent of the 'American Dream' was to acquire a piece of land, buy a slave, build a house and grow cash crops. So if one was a newly freed slave, looking for a way to provide for himself/herself, the 'roadmap' for success was well known.
But we also know that because the laws of the various states severely restricted or outlawed manumission, it was extremely difficult- if not impossible- for a freed slave to free his/her family members. We know that at least a few were able to reunite with loved ones by purchasing them. They were still legally slaves of a benevolent, loving family member. It wasn't the best arrangement, but it worked for them.
 

archieclement

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The percentages of slave ownership is often much higher on a state-by-state basis. According to the 1860 census 49% of Mississippi households, 44% of South Carolinian households, and 37% of Georgia households owned slaves.

I suppose one could make the argument that the percentage of slave ownership among whites was insignificant, but only if census results are ignored. Even Delaware, the slave state with the fewest amount of people in bondage in 1860, had a slightly higher percentage of slave ownership than free blacks (3%). It was 13% in Missouri, the slave state after Delaware with the lowest percentage of slave ownership.

Nationally, excluding territories that were not yet states, the percentage of households owning slaves was 8%.
Again one switches the standard from the original one. The same would be true of free blacks if one went from a national figure to state figures, there would be states with a higher then 1% figure also. And also the original didn't use households but individual owners.

Once one starting shifting parameters from what your comparing to......of course one can change the figures........... Why if he is going to use owners nationally of a select demographic, I used owners nationally also.........otherwise it becomes apples to oranges

I'll note some seem to prefer to juggle the parameter to change the figures. I simply used the same parameter as used in the original OP. And if one used owners nationally as he did to reach 1%, the other demographic is also 1% useing his same method. And that isn't ignoring census data at all. It's simply using it the same way he did.

But regardless seems mute to me, we can split slaveowners into however many small groups one wants. And it doesn't change they were slaveowners or lessen the impact of having done so IMO. The whole point of saying insignificant or irrelevant seems to suggest it was innocent or not worth noting, however the culpability is the same as any other group of slaveowners. Whether free blacks, American indians, Irish or Scots who moved to Ky to Mo who owned slaves, it's still the same

Edit-added I would actually take a different tact, in that it if one looks where slavery was allowed, it seems almost impossible to find a demographic that didn't participate, and would think that is significant and relevant rather then the opposite
 
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=continued from post 109=

In talking about whether black slave owners were "significant," it is useful to ask, where did they exist within the social institutions and social hierarchies of the day, and what do those locations tell us about their significance? I can offer these thoughts:

{1} As stated by Chief Justice Roger Taney, Negroes were to be "regarded as beings of an inferior order... {who could be} bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it."

African Americans lived in this environment, but they did not "own" it. They had no control over the institution or the social structures in the South. To highlight that point, consider this is the population of what would become the Confederate States per the 1860 Census:


confederacy-confederate-population-slaves-copy-jpg-jpg.jpg


As noted, only 1.5% of the population in those states were free blacks. Even if 33% of all free blacks lived in slave owning families - which was not true - then only 0.5% of the population in those states were black slave owners.

Besides being small in number, free black lacked the rights and privileges of free whites. Free blacks could not vote in any slave state, for example (in 1860). All of this speaks to their insignificance, when trying to answer the question "Pre-Civil War Free Blacks Owned Slaves... Is that significant?

{2} Two of the structures of the day were status and color. We think of race as the only dynamic in these folks' lives, but it was not. Mulattos, such as the enslaved woman Hinton in post #109, lived in an in-between world. But color was only one of two important structures the I want to discuss here. Status, which was not necessarily dependent on skin color (or the lightness thereof) was also key.

The late Ira Berlin's book Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South says:

Free Negroes found that their social advancement hinged on their ability to distinguish themselves from the mass of slaves. The closer free Negroes could approximate the white ideal, the greater their chances of acceptance. Acceptance of course was not a quality, but... It could markedly improve the freemen's standards of living. Consciously, or unconsciously, upward striving free Negroes understood this and acting on it.​
Status differences continually eroded the bonds of racial unity and turned the free Negroes and slaves against each other. ...some free Negroes... anxious to integrate themselves with white patrons and protectors... vigorously defended slavery as the proper status for the majority of blacks.​
{there were} status differences between free and slave blacks at all levels, {but} they tended to be greater at the top and at the bottom. Wealthy freemen wanted little part of slaves except as property...​
Whites promoted these differences between free Negroes in slaves, just as they try to divide fieldhands and house servants, unskilled bondsman and slave artisans.​
...Dunford {a black slaveholder} fully identified with the white slave owning elite. Many wealthy freemen, like Dunford, considered themselves more white than black, no matter what their precise racial heritage. Dunford's Northern educated son, who urged amelioration of slave conditions—not emancipation—had no greater sense of identification with blacks then his father. He supported African colonization for slaves — but not for himself –spoke of colonization as repatriation, and lauded the plan to return blacks to "the land of their fathers."

Berlin does not say what Dunford's skin color was like, but I would bet that Dunford was so light that he could pass for white, or was close to it.

This is the oddity of the "black slave holder" discussion: Many "black" slave holders did not see themselves as "black," but most of us today see it that way. Large numbers of them were of mixed race, and in fact, came to their standing and privileges from white forefathers. Places like New Orleans and Charleston, SC, had "tri-racial" societies, as some have called them. Mixed race people often saw themselves as having more in common with their white cousins than their black cousins; and might not have acknowledged that "black" slaves were "their kind." This whole dynamic is unseen because of what can be simplistic notions of race. (Of course, "pure" whites would have had their own, different, views of this.)

Owning slaves gave them a way to establish their whiteness, or as historian Calvin Schermerhorn would say, it was part of a strategy to make an alliance with whites. Even black slaveholders who were not so light would have wanted to make such alliances. Slaveholding put them in the community with other slaveholders, who were among the elite of the white South. Although they would never be accepted as "white" it was a step up from being considered chattel or a lowly free black.

In other words, slave ownership did not merely create economic opportunities. It was a way to achieve status, perhaps even "whiteness" or something akin to "equality."

{3} What is the significance of black slave ownership? The small size of the free black population in general in the South, combined with the small number of slaveholders in that population, combined with their lesser status/social and political influence, meant that free black slaveholders had no very little political, economic, or social impact on the South in general, and on the institution of slavery in particular. Whites considered slavery to be an institution that existed for the benefit of whites, and they had the power to define it, control it, and enforce it. Black slaveholders did not.

But when considering the intersection of the hierarchies of race, status, skin color, and class (which I haven't spoken about), we can see the complicated social landscape that free black slaveholders navigated. Basically, they were in a position where they had to reject their "blackness" or, treat enslaved black people as if they (free blacks) were white. Although that's probably not a fair thing to say: who am I to say that they were "black?" If they wanted to define themselves as something other than "black," then why can't they? Who am I, or who are we, to impose our identity politics on them? Should we not be accounting for their identities as they saw them?

Chief Justice Roger Taney said Negroes were to be "regarded as beings of an inferior order... {who could be} bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it." By owning slaves, black slave holders were saying no, we are not inferior, but rather the equal of any white man who could own chattel. Did white people see any significance in this? I doubt it, which makes for an irony that may not have been appreciated at the time.

- Alan
 
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Again one switches the standard from the original one. The same would be true of free blacks if one went from a national figure to state figures, there would be states with a higher then 1% figure also. And also the original didn't use households but individual owners.

Once one starting shifting parameters from what your comparing to......of course one can change the figures........... Why if he is going to use owners nationally of a select demographic, I used owners nationally also.........otherwise it becomes apples to oranges

I'll note some seem to prefer to juggle the parameter to change the figures. I simply used the same parameter as used in the original OP. And if one used owners nationally as he did to reach 1%, the other demographic is also 1% useing his same method. And that isn't ignoring census data at all. It's simply using it the same way he did.

But regardless seems mute to me, we can split slaveowners into however many small groups one wants. And it doesn't change they were slaveowners or lessen the impact of having done so IMO. The whole point of saying insignificant or irrelevant seems to suggest it was innocent or not worth noting, however the culpability is the same as any other group of slaveowners. Whether free blacks, American indians, Irish or Scots who moved to Ky to Mo who owned slaves, it's still the same
It is 8% of households being slaveholders nationally, not 1%.

http://www.civil-war.net/pages/1860_census.html

I do not know what percentage of those slaveholding households were white, but I don't think it would be controversial to suggest that the great majority of them likely were.

Whether or not 8% is a significant slice of the total population I suppose depends on your perspective, but it is certainly more significant than 1%. Even if the percentages aren't looked at on a state-by-state basis, the percentage of slaveholding households rises greatly if the free states are excluded. 24% of all households in states where slavery was legal, held slaves. Did 24% of free black households in slave states hold slaves?

If an argument were to made that white slaveholders were as insignificant as the number of free blacks holding slaves (What that poster meant by insignificant would probably need to be defined first. Also...what percentage separates insignificant from significant, and why?), I think some data would need to be introduced to the discussion demonstrating that free blacks were as likely to be slaveholders as whites in states where slavery was legal.

Even if that were the case (For now I'm skeptical, unless someone has evidence to produce demonstrating that to be the case) there would still be the issue of some of those free blacks owning relatives as a means of skirting around laws that would have made manumission difficult. There is no question that some free blacks owned slaves, and some of those were motivated by profit just like white slaveholders. Individually - at least if profit was the motive - they were no better than white slaveholders, but I think we have to be careful not to draw some sort of equivalency between between whites and black freedmen in slave states on the whole, which could suggest incorrectly that there was not a racial component to slavery in the United States.

I am not suggesting you were making that argument, but there are some out there who do. Recently there was an image that went viral on facebook claiming incorrectly that something like 1% of whites owned slaves, and adding that there was also 20,000 black slaveowners. Clearly the intent of whoever created that was to minimize both the importance of slavery in the mid 19th Century and the racial component to the practice, and the means used was misinformation. Unfortunately many fall for it and share, without verifying for themselves the claims being made.

Nearly half of all households in South Carolina and Mississippi, around one third of all households in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and one quarter of all households in Virginia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, a and Kentucky were slaveholding. That had enormous political and economic significance and was directly responsible for the Civil War.
 

uaskme

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=continued from post 105=

Social institutions and social structures are created by people. Social structures refer to hierarchies that have been created by people within societies.

In societies, some people have more power to create and enforce social institutions and social structures than others. In monarchies, kings and queens have much more power than their subjects, or including lords or other people with higher status.

When Judge Taney wrote his opinion in the Dred Scott case, and the state of Texas wrote the secession declaration, they made in unequivocally clear: slavery was designed for white people to make profit from black people, by treating black people like property. Black people had no say in this. Slavery was for the benefit of the white race.
********

David Walker {1785-1830} is somewhat famous in some circles. He authored the famous anti-slavery tract "Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles..." which was published in 1829. The website DocSouth made this summary of the document:

David Walker was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to a free mother and an enslaved father. Some sources date his birth to 1785 while others suggest that 1796 is more likely. Walker was an outspoken black abolitionist, and he put his fiery thoughts to paper in his famous Appeal (1829).​
Walker targeted his emotional tract most specifically to free black northerners and southern slaves, but he also addressed northern whites and slave masters who would likely read the subversive pamphlet out of curiosity. Walker pushed for immediate emancipation rather than the gradualist approaches or colonization schemes of white anti-slavery groups such as the North Carolina Manumission Society.​
Walker saved his most incendiary rhetoric, however, for his southern audience. He urged slaves to rebel en masse, posing the question: "had you not rather be killed than to be slave to a tyrant?" (p. 30). Walker's publication terrified already paranoid white masters, and about them Walker notes "if they do not have enough to be frightened for yet, it will be" (p. 37).​

In his Appeal, Walker directed ire at an enslaved woman who was in a slave coffle in Kentucky. Several of the enslaved people in the coffle managed to overpower their white captors and run into the woods. Walker wrote that "Sixteen of the negroes then took to the woods; (one of the captors), in the mean time, not being materially injured, was enabled, by the assistance of one of the women, to mount his horse and flee."

Walker could not contain his anger:

Here my brethren, I want you to notice particularly in the above article, the ignorant and deceitful actions of this coloured woman. I beg you to view it candidly, as for ETERNITY!!!!​
Here a notorious wretch, {IE, one of the captors} with two other confederates had SIXTY of them {enslaved people} in a gang, driving them like brutes--the men all in chains and hand-cuffs, and by the help of God they got their chains and hand-cuffs thrown off, and caught two of the wretches and put them to death, and beat the other until they thought he was dead, and left him for dead; however, he deceived them, and rising from the ground, this servile woman helped him upon his horse, and he made his escape. Brethren, what do you think of this? Was it the natural fine feelings of this woman, to save such a wretch alive?

He continued:

Let no one say that I assert this because I am prejudiced on the side of my colour, and against the whites or Europeans. For what I write, I do it candidly, for my God and the good of both parties: Natural observations have taught me these things; there is a solemn awe in the hearts of the blacks, as it respects murdering men:* whereas the whites, (though they are great cowards) where they have the advantage, or think that there are any prospects of getting it, they murder all before them, in order to subject men to wretchedness and degradation under them.​
This is the natural result of pride and avarice. But I declare, the actions of this black woman are really insupportable. For my own part, I cannot think it was any thing but servile deceit, combined with the most gross ignorance: for we must remember that humanity, kindness and the fear of the Lord, does not consist in protecting devils.​
* Which is the reason the whites take the advantage of us.​
Historian Calvin Schermerhorn talked about Walker and those comments in his book Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South. He talks about Hinton, an enslaved woman, and Omohundro, a slave trader who was 20 years her senior. Omohundro's business included the occasional "fancy girls": light-skinned mulattoes who were sold in "the sex trade."

Hinton, who was light enough to pass as white, might well have wound up like other "fancy girls." But Omohundro took a liking to her (the feeling might certainly have been mutual), and she became his concubine. In fact, when traveling, Omohundro sometimes introduced Hinton as his wife. They had five children together.

Hinton is known to have helped Omohundro conduct his business. Schermerhorn writes "in 1855, for instance, Omohundro gave her nearly $600 to buy 'Negro clothing' for slaves awaiting sale in his jail."

Shermerhorn says that Hinton surely understood that she was aiding and abetting an enterprise that enslaved people like her. But her life with Omohundro was surely preferable to a life as a sex slave, for example. To use a phrase of Harriet Jacob, Hinton was "one of God's most powerless creatures." Note that, Hinton identified herself as white in the 1860 and 1870 Census.

I mentioned the term intersectionality in a previous post

”Intersectionality“ represents an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.​
Intersectionality considers that various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together. ...today the analysis is potentially applied to all social categories, including social identities usually seen as dominant when considered independently.​
Hinton's actions took place at the intersection of hierarchies of race, status (free or slave), gender, and also, color. Her color ~ she was able to pass for white ~ gave her an opportunity that was not available to darker women.

Hinton may well have thought that slavery was evil, but there was nothing she could do about it. David Walker would no doubt have characterized her actions as "servile deceit, combined with the most gross ignorance." But for Hinton, resistance was futile. This was the best life her powerlessness could afford her.

=continued=

- Alan
So now, we believe what Taney has to say? Reguardless of the interpretation of the laws, Blacks had Slaves. Other Racial groups other than Whites, had Slaves. Internationaly Blacks participated in the Slave Trade. Many times the Law isn’t enforced.

So if we should believe you, it was illegal for Blacks to own Slaves, show us where the Law was enforced.
 

archieclement

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It is 8% of households being slaveholders nationally, not 1%.

http://www.civil-war.net/pages/1860_census.html

I do not know what percentage of those slaveholding households were white, but I don't think it would be controversial to suggest that the great majority of them likely were.

Whether or not 8% is a significant slice of the total population I suppose depends on your perspective, but it is certainly more significant than 1%. Even if the percentages aren't looked at on a state-by-state basis, the percentage of slaveholding households rises greatly if the free states are excluded. 24% of all households in states where slavery was legal, held slaves. Did 24% of free black households in slave states hold slaves?

If an argument were to made that white slaveholders were as insignificant as the number of free blacks holding slaves (What that poster meant by insignificant would probably need to be defined first. Also...what percentage separates insignificant from significant, and why?), I think some data would need to be introduced to the discussion demonstrating that free blacks were as likely to be slaveholders as whites in states where slavery was legal.

Even if that were the case (For now I'm skeptical, unless someone has evidence to produce demonstrating that to be the case) there would still be the issue of some of those free blacks owning relatives as a means of skirting around laws that would have made manumission difficult. There is no question that some free blacks owned slaves, and some of those were motivated by profit just like white slaveholders. Individually - at least if profit was the motive - they were no better than white slaveholders, but I think we have to be careful not to draw some sort of equivalency between between whites and black freedmen in slave states on the whole, which could suggest incorrectly that there was not a racial component to slavery in the United States.

I am not suggesting you were making that argument, but there are some out there who do. Recently there was an image that went viral on facebook claiming incorrectly that something like 1% of whites owned slaves, and adding that there was also 20,000 black slaveowners. Clearly the intent of whoever created that was to minimize both the importance of slavery in the mid 19th Century and the racial component to the practice, and the means used was misinformation. Unfortunately many fall for it and share, without verifying for themselves the claims being made.

Nearly half of all households in South Carolina and Mississippi, around one third of all households in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and one quarter of all households in Virginia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, a and Kentucky were slaveholding. That had enormous political and economic significance and was directly responsible for the Civil War.
Again if you want me to note your insistence on switching the methodology I will.....however the original op used % of blacks nationally that were slaveowners not households. Not seeing why suddenly your wanting to use households instead of owners as the OP used to reach 1%

If your arguing you have to change the methodology to reach a figure higher then 1% for either I agree.
Why if going to use owners nationally for one, should use owners nationally for the other as well

If your issue is using owners nationally......not sure why its addressed to me, as wbull1 was the one who orginally selected that methodology, yet haven't seen anyone complain of him doing so, I just used the same as he did, and if one does the statistics nationally are comparable
 
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So now, we believe what Taney has to say? Reguardless of the interpretation of the laws, Blacks had Slaves. Other Racial groups other than Whites, had Slaves. Internationaly Blacks participated in the Slave Trade. Many times the Law isn’t enforced.

So if we should believe you, it was illegal for Blacks to own Slaves, show us where the Law was enforced.
I did not say that it was illegal for Blacks to own slaves. Obviously, there were blacks who owned slaves.

- Alan
 
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So now, we believe what Taney has to say? Reguardless of the interpretation of the laws, Blacks had Slaves. Other Racial groups other than Whites, had Slaves. Internationaly Blacks participated in the Slave Trade. Many times the Law isn’t enforced.

So if we should believe you, it was illegal for Blacks to own Slaves, show us where the Law was enforced.
From post 105:

Clearly, white themselves made it clear that enslavement was race-based. Blacks could be enslaved, whites could not. No limits were placed on who could own slaves among the free population.
 

Viper21

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