Was there an exodus of free Black people from the South on the eve of the Civil War.

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The statistics I've seen say that there we're 250,000 free Black people in the South on the eve of the Civil War. Now if it we're me, and I was a free person of color, I wouldn't want to stick around for the inevitable carnage that was coming. Was there a mass movement of free people from the South to the North? If they stayed, why?
 

jackt62

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The statistics I've seen say that there we're 250,000 free Black people in the South on the eve of the Civil War. Now if it we're me, and I was a free person of color, I wouldn't want to stick around for the inevitable carnage that was coming. Was there a mass movement of free people from the South to the North? If they stayed, why?

I've not come across any information about that happening. But I would surmise, given that free Blacks in the northern states lacked most kinds of political, social, and civil rights, that free southern Blacks would not be so eager to leave their homes for an uncertain future.
 

Joshism

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If they stayed, why?

Probably similar reasons that Southern Unionists stayed. They had spent their entire lives in the South, often several generations. There also weren't many black communities in the North they could move to.

There wasn't a mass migration of blacks after the war either. The Great Migration out of the South occurred primarily around WW1 and WW2, thanks to economic opportunity making leaving more feasible.

Transportation also made it more feasible. Let's say you want to move from Mississippi to Chicago. In 1920 you can take a train, albeit with segregated passenger cars, maybe even without changing trains. In 1940 you might be able to drive too. In 1860, you probably had to walk.

If you're desperate to escape slavery then you don't really care about the difficulty. If you're free, trying to move an entire family towards an unknown destination with no certainty of work or housing or community, that's less appealing even if you recognize the war clouds looming.
 

ForeverFree

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The statistics I've seen say that there we're 250,000 free Black people in the South on the eve of the Civil War. Now if it we're me, and I was a free person of color, I wouldn't want to stick around for the inevitable carnage that was coming. Was there a mass movement of free people from the South to the North? If they stayed, why?

(1) RE: "I wouldn't want to stick around for the inevitable carnage that was coming."

If "fear of carnage" was a reason for leaving the South, then I would think free people of all races would leave the South. Do you feel free people of color would be more desiring to leave the Confederate States than free whites? If so, why?

(2) There were around 132,000 free blacks in the Confederate States in 1860. Note that 2 out of 3 free blacks in the CSA lived in just two states: North Carolina and Virginia.

African American Population, 1860:
new-free-black-population-1860-census-jpg.jpg


Legend: F = Free State, S = Slave/Confederate State, SB = Slave-Border/Union State, T = Territory.
Sources: Historical Census Browser, from the University of Virginia, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center: http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu/ – Retrieved 2014 (note that, the numbers at the site have changed in very small amounts since then); The Negro’s Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union (Appendix A), by James M. McPherson

Also:
1608986760660.png


Eight out of ten free blacks in the Confederacy lived in just three states: VA, NC and LA.

- Alan
 
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RobertP

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Since we usually hear the phrase “people vote with their feet” when migration is the topic one can only presume that they were comfortable where they were. Right?
 

unionblue

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Since we usually hear the phrase “people vote with their feet” when migration is the topic one can only presume that they were comfortable where they were. Right?
It seems to be a bit more true to modify the phrase a bit. "people vote with their feet when they can."

Slave patrols, Slave catchers, Fugitive Slave Laws, large families difficult to move, lack of passes to be on the road, better to stay with the devil you know instead of the one you don't, etc.

As for that presumption "they were comfortable where they were," that is just that, a presumption, right?

I wonder about the populations of East Germany when the Wall went up or North Koreans staying where they are. They must like it because they stay there?

Hmmmmm.
 

ForeverFree

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Since we usually hear the phrase “people vote with their feet” when migration is the topic one can only presume that they were comfortable where they were. Right?
(1) These people tried to vote with their feet, but it didn't work out too well for them.

8096lrs_6bce81c22a00f24.jpg


What we can say is that history, mobility, comfort level, opportunity, legal condition, and other factors, which vary over time and space, explain why people reside in some place and not others. Also, personal conditions vary from person to person (for example, family ties might "bind" a free person to a particular place), and again, help explain the residency decision.

(2) I have talked in previous posts about the unique situation of free blacks in the southern mid-Atlantic states. Note from the first table in post #6:
a) There were 488,000 free blacks in the US in 1860.
b) Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, DC had roughly 23.5% of the free black population.
c) North Carolina and Virginia had roughly 18% of the free black population.

So, just 4 states and DC, all in the southern mid-Atlantic, had 41% of all free blacks in the USA. There is a history that explains why these so-called Tobacco Road states have such a large portion of USA free blacks, but I will leave it at that.

- Alan
 

Quaama

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Since we usually hear the phrase “people vote with their feet” when migration is the topic one can only presume that they were comfortable where they were. Right?

Seems about right to me.

In terms of those who were slaves - as as several Union States adjoining the Confederacy were slave States there would seem little point in leaving your home to endure the same situation in an unfamiliar environment.

As for those who were free, they obviously chose to remain where they were with some even serving in the Confederate army.
 

Joshism

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If "fear of carnage" was a reason for leaving the South, then I would think free people of all races would leave the South. Do you feel free people of color would be more desiring to leave the Confederate States than free whites? If so, why?

Whites in seceding states were mostly expecting an outcome favorable to their interests. Where would they go? The North was about to become a foreign country.

Free blacks might expect only negative outcomes:
1. South wins = worse for blacks
2. South defeat = blame blacks

Plus possible impressment/reenslavement to meet wartime needs.

Alternatively, if you think Confederate victory is likely, you may not see escape as a viable option but loyal service is a way to improve your standing.

If you're an African American in 1860 what frame of reference do you have for war and its impact? Whites at least had the Mexican War and some Indian Wars, although many were naive despite this.
 

ForeverFree

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Seems about right to me.

In terms of those who were slaves - as as several Union States adjoining the Confederacy were slave States there would seem little point in leaving your home to endure the same situation in an unfamiliar environment.
If what you say is true, then why were border states so adamantly in favor of fugitive slave legislation, such as the Act of 1850? In fact, whites in the border states in particular were very afraid of runaways seeking freedom in free states. Those whites not only used police state tactics to prevent escape from bondage, but they also sought laws like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to make it easier for freed blacks to be captured and re-commodifed and degraded in a slave state.

Also of note is that in KY, MD, MO and WV thousands of enslaved people used the war and the conditions it caused to seek and gain freedom. In Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Delaware and West Virginia a total of 41,915 men were in the USCT (US Colored Troops). Enslaved persons who joined the US army gained their freedom upon enlistment. In this case voting with their feet meant joining the Union army. Congress passed measures that freed the families of those men late in the war.

n_Civil_War_Medal_of_Honor_recipient_-_Restoration.jpg


This is USA Sgt Christian Fleetwood. He was a free black man from Baltimore. He won the Medal of Honor for his actions in the war. Free blacks like Fleetwood fought to end slavery and gain full citizenship rights. Again, voting with his feet meant joining the Union army. We cannot overstress what a huge leap of faith it was for free blacks to join the USA army, given nationwide racial prejudice.

I close by noting that KY, MD, and WV were considered part of the South (below the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River) and are still considered part of the South today by the US Census Bureau.

As for those who were free, they obviously chose to remain where they were with some even serving in the Confederate army.

I don't know how many free blacks were enlisted in the CSA army. Here are numbers for the USCT. Note the number enlisted from states that were in the Confederacy:

COUNT OF US COLORED TROOPS BY STATE

Union Free States, Territories & DC: 37,818
Union Slave States: 41,915
Confederate States: 93,346
State or Territory Unknown: 5,896
GRAND TOTAL – USCT 178,975

We know that many free blacks from Louisiana joined the USA army, but I don't have a number for that. Again, these enlistments are an indication of how men "voted with their feet."

- Alan
 
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RobertP

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It seems to be a bit more true to modify the phrase a bit. "people vote with their feet when they can."

Slave patrols, Slave catchers, Fugitive Slave Laws, large families difficult to move, lack of passes to be on the road, better to stay with the devil you know instead of the one you don't, etc.

As for that presumption "they were comfortable where they were," that is just that, a presumption, right?

I wonder about the populations of East Germany when the Wall went up or North Koreans staying where they are. They must like it because they stay there?

Hmmmmm.
Unless I’m mistaken, the topic of this thread is free blacks in Confederate states. It’s an interesting question. Maybe we can stay on point?
 

Joshism

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why were border states so adamantly in favor of fugitive slave legislation, such as the Act of 1850?

It's worth noting that Delaware, which had substantially more free blacks in 1860 than slaves, still rebuffed Lincoln's wartime proposals for compensated emancipation for Delaware's slaves as a test run toward national emancipation.
 

unionblue

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Unless I’m mistaken, the topic of this thread is free blacks in Confederate states. It’s an interesting question. Maybe we can stay on point?

Why, certainly!

Let us then deal with all the problems of the era that come with the 19th century idea of a slave "voting with one's feet."

Slave patrols.
Slave catchers.
The need for written passes.
Fugitive Slave Laws.
The difficulty of leaving one's family and loved ones behind or to endanger them on a dangerous journey.,

And like I have said before, "the presumption they were comfortable where they were" is just that, a presumption, right?
 
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ForeverFree

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The statistics I've seen say that there we're 250,000 free Black people in the South on the eve of the Civil War. Now if it we're me, and I was a free person of color, I wouldn't want to stick around for the inevitable carnage that was coming. Was there a mass movement of free people from the South to the North? If they stayed, why?

FYI: At 1860, the majority of free people of African descent lived in the original 13 states and Washington, DC. Or put in another way, most free blacks lived on the East Coast.

As noted in a previous post,
• Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, DC had roughly 23.5% of the 1860 free black population.
• North Carolina and Virginia had roughly 18% of the free black population.
• But in addition to that, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had 26.8% of the free black population.

All together, the states mentioned had 68% of the free black population. Basically, the Northeast to Mid-Atlantic area was the site of a free black enclave, or better put, numerous free black enclaves. Free blacks were much less migratory than free whites. Those enclaves offered a community and perhaps some measure of security. Again, there is history to this, which people can explore if they wish.

- Alan
 
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FYI: At 1860, the majority of free people of African descent lived in the original 13 states and Washington, DC. Or put in another way, most free blacks lived on the East Coast.

As noted in a previous post,
• Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, DC had roughly 23.5% of the 1860 free black population.
• North Carolina and Virginia had roughly 18% of the free black population.
• But in addition to that, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had 26.8% of the free black population.

All together, the states mentioned had 68% of the free black population. Basically, the Northeast to Mid-Atlantic area was the site of a free black enclave, or better put, numerous free black enclaves. Free blacks were much less migratory than free whites. Those enclaves offered a community and perhaps some measure of security. Again, there is history to this, which people can explore if they wish.

- Alan
Ah, ok.
 

Quaama

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[1] If what you say is true, then why were border states so adamantly in favor of fugitive slave legislation, such as the Act of 1850? In fact, whites in the border states in particular were very afraid of runaways seeking freedom in free states. Those whites not only used police state tactics to prevent escape from bondage, but they also sought laws like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to make it easier for freed blacks to be captured and re-commodifed and degraded in a slave state.

[2] Also of note is that in KY, MD, MO and WV thousands of enslaved people used the war and the conditions it caused to seek and gain freedom. In Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Delaware and West Virginia a total of 41,915 men were in the USCT (US Colored Troops). Enslaved persons who joined the US army gained their freedom upon enlistment. In this case voting with their feet meant joining the Union army. Congress passed measures that freed the families of those men late in the war.

- Alan

[1] I suppose, like @RobertP in Post #13, I took the OP to mean "blacks in Confederate states" hence my comment "there would seem little point in leaving your home to endure the same situation in an unfamiliar environment" in regards to those slave States that bordered the Confederacy.
In terms of non-slave States, I do not think that on the whole they would have welcomed blacks coming to them as they were generally not wanted and were prohibited from joining the Union army (see [2] below].

[2] The thousands of enslaved people who used the war to seek and gain freedom was not an option at the beginning of the war. It was unlawful for black people to join the Union army at that time. The opportunity for black people to join the Union army did not arrive until 1863 when the war was about half over and even then the Union did not want them mixing with their other soldiers so they were segregated through the creation of the USCT to which you refer.
 

ForeverFree

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[1] I suppose, like @RobertP in Post #13, I took the OP to mean "blacks in Confederate states" hence my comment "there would seem little point in leaving your home to endure the same situation in an unfamiliar environment" in regards to those slave States that bordered the Confederacy.
I wonder if some people have the notion that black migration, or lack thereof says something about blacks having positive or negative feelings about the North or South. As I stated earlier, I believe that history, mobility, comfort level, opportunity, legal condition, and other factors, which vary over time and space, explain why people reside in some place and not others, and why they might migrate to some places or not at all.

@RobertP (seemed to) opine that free blacks in the Confederate States were "comfortable," and therefore, were not migratory. I think you and I both agree that free blacks were subject to racial prejudice. I don't now how many free blacks were "comfortable" living in a world where they were subject to discrimination based on their skin color and heritage. Certainly, the personal comfort level of a free black person was not the same as that a free white person. We need to interrogate what it means to be "comfortable" when you are a free person of color in the Confederate States in particular and the any state in general, versus the comfortable-ness felt by whites.

I make note above that in 1860, the majority of the USA's free blacks lived in the area from NY to NC. African Americans were not as migratory as free whites. My take is that they felt a sense of community and even safety in the communities in those states. I think their decision to migrate or not migrate says something about the families and communities they formed and in which they lived.

But I do want to repeat, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. For example, we know that 2 out of 3 of the Confederacy's free blacks lived in NC and VA, and that VA was the site of the earliest fighting in the war. It could just be that free blacks in those states didn't want to be refugees traveling through a war zone with their families (see also the comments made by @unionblue in post #8). That would make staying home a more reasonable and safe choice.

- Alan
 
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Quaama

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I wonder if some people have the notion that black migration, or lack thereof says something about blacks having positive or negative feelings about the North or South. As I stated earlier, I believe that history, mobility, comfort level, opportunity, legal condition, and other factors, which vary over time and space, explain why people reside in some place and not others, and why they might migrate to some places or not at all.

@RobertP (seemed to) opine that free blacks in the Confederate States were "comfortable," and therefore, were not migratory. I think you and I both agree that free blacks were subject to racial prejudice. I don't now how many free blacks were "comfortable" living in a world where they were subject to discrimination based on their skin color and heritage. Certainly, the personal comfort level of a free black person was not the same as that a free white person. We need to interrogate what it means to be "comfortable" when you are a free person of color in the Confederate States in particular and the any state in general, versus the comfortable-ness felt by whites.

I make note above that in 1860, the majority of the USA's free blacks lived in the area from NY to NC. African Americans were not as migratory free whites. My take is that they felt a sense of community and even safety in the communities in those states. I rather think it says something about the families and communities they formed and in which they lived, and their wanting to remain with their families and communities.

But I do want to repeat, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. For example, we know that 2 out of 3 of the Confederacy's free blacks lived in NC and VA, and that VA was the site of the earliest fighting in the war. It could just be that free blacks in those states didn't want to be refugees traveling through a war zone with their families (see also the comments made by @unionblue in post #8). That would make staying home a more reasonable and safe choice.

- Alan

I don't 'have the notion that black migration, or lack thereof" says anything 'about blacks having positive or negative feelings about the North or the South. Obviously, those who were slaves had no predisposition to have good feelings towards their enslavers - whether they were from the north or the south. I suspect that people in general at that time were more likely to consider themselves as living in their particular State before they thought of themselves as living in the United States.

I suspect the free black people were subject to discrimination in all States of the Union and the Confederacy. I suspect that they felt most comfortable amongst the people they grew up with and encountered on a daily basis than someone from another State. I also think "it says something about the families and communities they formed and in which they lived, and their wanting to remain with their families and communities". Most people at the time would rarely venture outside their own county let alone their State (except those in border towns). They were as content as they could be in their own home towns.

I do not think there was much danger of 'travelling though a war zone' as for many months after Sumter actual warfare was sporadic and localised. Free blacks would have held dear their papers that declared them as such and would have encountered little opposition in 'heading north' if they had so desired. The lack of migration seems to say they decided to 'stay at home'.
 
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