Why Did Free Blacks Stay in the Old South?

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#21
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Why Did Free Blacks Stay in the Old South?

Thread with the same title did not discuss the article very much. Why Did Free Blacks Stay in the Old South?
Hopefully, we can discuss the article. Emphasis mine.

So, Why Did They Stay? Uncertainty and family were two reasons.

One of the most important reasons Free Negroes stayed in the South, Berlin suggests, was uncertainty: They couldn't be so sure things would be better for them in the North. In many cases they were right, especially in states that restricted the admission of free blacks, among them Ohio, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois (the last two in their state constitutions). Interestingly, an antebellum case from Massachusetts, Roberts v. Boston(1849), upholding segregation in Boston's public schools, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its dreaded 1896 opinion reinforcing Jim Crow segregation, Plessy v. Ferguson. Even though the Massachusetts decision was later overruled by legislative action, the point was made. "In the North," Berlin writes, "blacks were despised and degraded as in the South." (For more, see James and Lois Horton's invaluable book, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860).
But comparative dread was not the only reason that most free blacks remained in the South. At the top of the list was family unity. After all, when a slave family was split up, often the free members remained close, attempting to raise the funds needed to buy the remaining members of the family. They built churches in their communities, so they worshipped, and worked, in proximity with family members and friends who were still slaves, sometimes even in the same fields and workshops. And while they "were not a revolutionary caste," according to Berlin, many did what they could to "help individual slaves to ease the burden of bondage or escape it altogether."​
The same reason millions of East European Jews stayed in Czarist Russia and then after the Russian Revolution of 1917 independent Poland and the Baltic States. Despite decades of massacre's condoned by the Czar many Jews simply thought things would get better. For example despite countless killings of Polish Jews by the locals many Jews fought side by side their Catholic neighbors to fight against the Bolsheviks to establish an independent Poland.
Yes if course they were rewarded many Poles collaboration with the Germans in the Holocaust.
Yes millions of Jew's from Czarist Russia certainly immigrated to various nations especially the US , Canada and South Africa. Point being people are often overly optimistic about the future or prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't.
Leftyhunter
 

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#22
The same reason millions of East European Jews stayed in Czarist Russia and then after the Russian Revolution of 1917 independent Poland and the Baltic States. Despite decades of massacre's condoned by the Czar many Jews simply thought things would get better. For example despite countless killings of Polish Jews by the locals many Jews fought side by side their Catholic neighbors to fight against the Bolsheviks to establish an independent Poland.
Yes if course they were rewarded many Poles collaboration with the Germans in the Holocaust.
Yes millions of Jew's from Czarist Russia certainly immigrated to various nations especially the US , Canada and South Africa. Point being people are often overly optimistic about the future or prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't.
Leftyhunter
I think this analogy would be better stated that the Ashkenazim saw Eastern Europe as their cultural home, much as Blacks saw the South the same way.
I think the issue simpler that way.
 
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#23
Good thread and a very educational article.

Making laws is one thing, but when they interfered with business enforcement became lax.

As the sectional crisis intensified in the 1850s, so, too, did whites' fury at their increasingly confident and politically conscious free black populations, but if Berlin's detailed account proves anything, it is that there was and would always be a huge gap between the laws as written on the books and those that operated on the ground.​
I would suggest that this maxim also needs to be considered when examining the presence of free black men in the southern army ranks during the war. Sometimes the law just gets ignored if there are more pressing priorities.
 
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#24
I think this analogy would be better stated that the Ashkenazim saw Eastern Europe as their cultural home, much as Blacks saw the South the same way.
I think the issue simpler that way.
Possibly. Also family ties. I did neglect to add that most of the Zionist settlers to then Ottoman Empire Palestine were from Czarist Russia.
Leftyhunter
 
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#25
Good thread and a very educational article.


I would suggest that this maxim also needs to be considered when examining the presence of free black men in the southern army ranks during the war. Sometimes the law just gets ignored if there are more pressing priorities.
If only we had clear evidence that there were enlisted black men in the Confederate Army.
Leftyhunter
 
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#26
History like the people it is about can be complex.
Did the book mention climate? Keeping warm in winter in a cold climate used to be a much bigger deal than it is today, and it was more difficult to grow crops up north with reasonable economic efficiency. Agriculture was what most of the recently freed slaves knew about, so weather was a legitimate worry for them.

There was also a psychological / social component to this. Growing up, I remember hearing embellished stories about how bad the winters were up north, from people who had never been there. I assume this was worse in the past, before telephones and broadcast media. The misinformation, along with the true facts, would have made the prospect of moving north seem quite intimidating. If a freed slave had relatives who had moved north, they couldn't call on the phone with accurate updates, they probably didn't have the money to travel back home for visits (if they even felt safe doing so), and they were probably illiterate so they couldn't write letters.

It's hard for modern people to relate to such a vacuum of information.
 
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#27
If only we had clear evidence that there were enlisted black men in the Confederate Army.
Leftyhunter
If the laws about race were not strictly observed in civilian life, we should not be surprised if they were not 100% observed in military life either. It's just another piece of the puzzle that caught my attention. I don't want to drag the thread off-topic, so this is the last I'll say on that subject here.

The free black population finding their niche in certain skilled trades and fighting to keep what they had earned in southern society also should not surprise anyone. We're accustomed to seeing the pre-war black Southern population depicted as nothing but victims, but the free blacks at least found their place in society and asserted their rights in whatever way they could. They didn't wait for a helping hand.
 

AshleyMel

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#28
The free black population finding their niche in certain skilled trades and fighting to keep what they had earned in southern society also should not surprise anyone. We're accustomed to seeing the pre-war black Southern population depicted as nothing but victims, but the free blacks at least found their place in society and asserted their rights in whatever way they could. They didn't wait for a helping hand.
I have a couple of really interesting books about the roles of free black women and the challenges they faced and overcame. These women were the real deal. Creating their place in incredible brave and courageous ways! Family was paramount but there were some cases where the women chose to be single and carve out their own notch in business and society. Sometimes marriage was not beneficial for them economically or socially! That was a real eye opener for me!
 

jgoodguy

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#29
Good thread and a very educational article.


I would suggest that this maxim also needs to be considered when examining the presence of free black men in the southern army ranks during the war. Sometimes the law just gets ignored if there are more pressing priorities.
Somewhere buried in the Black Confederate Count thread is a couple of references to blacks being removed from the ranks of the CSA army because of over-enthusiastic recruiters. That cuts both ways-it happened but it was corrected. In a million man CSA army, there are a million chances, but finding evidence is elusive.
 

jgoodguy

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#30
The same reason millions of East European Jews stayed in Czarist Russia and then after the Russian Revolution of 1917 independent Poland and the Baltic States. Despite decades of massacre's condoned by the Czar many Jews simply thought things would get better. For example despite countless killings of Polish Jews by the locals many Jews fought side by side their Catholic neighbors to fight against the Bolsheviks to establish an independent Poland.
Yes if course they were rewarded many Poles collaboration with the Germans in the Holocaust.
Yes millions of Jew's from Czarist Russia certainly immigrated to various nations especially the US , Canada and South Africa. Point being people are often overly optimistic about the future or prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't.
Leftyhunter
I think this analogy would be better stated that the Ashkenazim saw Eastern Europe as their cultural home, much as Blacks saw the South the same way.
I think the issue simpler that way.
Possibly. Also family ties. I did neglect to add that most of the Zionist settlers to then Ottoman Empire Palestine were from Czarist Russia.
Leftyhunter
As Host.
Can we stay in the US South and before 1869, please? Remember WWII references get especially vetted.
Thanks for your cooperation.
 

jgoodguy

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#31
If the laws about race were not strictly observed in civilian life, we should not be surprised if they were not 100% observed in military life either. It's just another piece of the puzzle that caught my attention. I don't want to drag the thread off-topic, so this is the last I'll say on that subject here.

The free black population finding their niche in certain skilled trades and fighting to keep what they had earned in southern society also should not surprise anyone. We're accustomed to seeing the pre-war black Southern population depicted as nothing but victims, but the free blacks at least found their place in society and asserted their rights in whatever way they could. They didn't wait for a helping hand.
However, in the run-up to the Civil War, there were more and more restrictions on free blacks. A lot of restrictions were ignored, but it only takes a militant in power to enforce them and start a pogrom.
 
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#32
Some had very successful businesses, which were not portable. I'm thinking for example of furniture maker Thomas Day in Milton NC and tavern owner Willis Madden of Culpeper VA. In places such as New Orleans and Richmond much of the free black population were successful in business and they remained the black economic and political elite after the war.
 

CSA Today

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#33
Some had very successful businesses, which were not portable. I'm thinking for example of furniture maker Thomas Day in Milton NC and tavern owner Willis Madden of Culpeper VA. In places such as New Orleans and Richmond much of the free black population were successful in business and they remained the black economic and political elite after the war.
Statue of Thomas Day outside the North Carolina Museum of History.

1554133226730.png


https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/day-thomas
 
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#34
If the laws about race were not strictly observed in civilian life, we should not be surprised if they were not 100% observed in military life either. It's just another piece of the puzzle that caught my attention. I don't want to drag the thread off-topic, so this is the last I'll say on that subject here.

The free black population finding their niche in certain skilled trades and fighting to keep what they had earned in southern society also should not surprise anyone. We're accustomed to seeing the pre-war black Southern population depicted as nothing but victims, but the free blacks at least found their place in society and asserted their rights in whatever way they could. They didn't wait for a helping hand.
The free blacks certainly lobbied for federal intervention and relief from Jim Crow via the federal courts.
Leftyhunter
 
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#37
The Sanford case is a good example if seeking relief from the federal courts and it is an antebellum case.
Leftyhunter
Your comment brought to mind a book someone had recommended on this topic, and I think I've found the thread: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/bl...ntebellum-american-south.144554/#post-1784864

In the antebellum Natchez district, in the heart of slave country, black people sued white people in all-white courtrooms. They sued to enforce the terms of their contracts, recover unpaid debts, recuperate back wages, and claim damages for assault. They sued in conflicts over property and personal status. And they often won. Based on new research conducted in courthouse basements and storage sheds in rural Mississippi and Louisiana, Kimberly Welch draws on over 1,000 examples of free and enslaved black litigants who used the courts to protect their interests and reconfigure their place in a tense society.​

To understand their success, Welch argues that we must understand the language that they used--the language of property, in particular--to make their claims recognizable and persuasive to others and to link their status as owner to the ideal of a free, autonomous citizen. In telling their stories, Welch reveals a previously unknown world of black legal activity, one that is consequential for understanding the long history of race, rights, and civic inclusion in America.​
Review
Kimberly Welch has done a remarkable job piecing together a rich set of stories from these evasive texts and artifacts, bringing to life the world of ordinary people who were able to use the courts in extraordinary ways."—Ariela Gross, author of What Blood Won't Tell

In this compelling, carefully researched book, Welch uses local court records to uncover the ways in which black litigants in the antebellum South advanced claims to legal personhood. The prevailing sanctity of private property created space within which they could seek loan repayment, wages due, inheritance, and sometimes even freedom, despite the fact that granting such claims to black litigants could undermine white supremacy. Written with a light touch and telling detail, this landmark study of race and law introduces us to men and women of African descent who took their white neighbors to court to assert rights they insisted should be respected.--Rebecca J. Scott, coauthor of Freedom Papers

Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South challenges our understandings of the relationship between black people and the law in the antebellum South. Welch gives us a more complete picture of the black legal experience in civil--not criminal--litigation, where property rights precede and function as civil rights in the 1800s. Building on the strength of new approaches to the litigiousness and advocacy among peoples of African descent, Welch has written a deeply researched book that will engage scholars across the Americas.--Michelle McKinley, University of Oregon

About the Author
Kimberly Welch is assistant professor of history at Vanderbilt University.​
 
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#38
Your comment brought to mind a book someone had recommended on this topic, and I think I've found the thread: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/bl...ntebellum-american-south.144554/#post-1784864

In the antebellum Natchez district, in the heart of slave country, black people sued white people in all-white courtrooms. They sued to enforce the terms of their contracts, recover unpaid debts, recuperate back wages, and claim damages for assault. They sued in conflicts over property and personal status. And they often won. Based on new research conducted in courthouse basements and storage sheds in rural Mississippi and Louisiana, Kimberly Welch draws on over 1,000 examples of free and enslaved black litigants who used the courts to protect their interests and reconfigure their place in a tense society.​
To understand their success, Welch argues that we must understand the language that they used--the language of property, in particular--to make their claims recognizable and persuasive to others and to link their status as owner to the ideal of a free, autonomous citizen. In telling their stories, Welch reveals a previously unknown world of black legal activity, one that is consequential for understanding the long history of race, rights, and civic inclusion in America.​
Review
Kimberly Welch has done a remarkable job piecing together a rich set of stories from these evasive texts and artifacts, bringing to life the world of ordinary people who were able to use the courts in extraordinary ways."—Ariela Gross, author of What Blood Won't Tell
In this compelling, carefully researched book, Welch uses local court records to uncover the ways in which black litigants in the antebellum South advanced claims to legal personhood. The prevailing sanctity of private property created space within which they could seek loan repayment, wages due, inheritance, and sometimes even freedom, despite the fact that granting such claims to black litigants could undermine white supremacy. Written with a light touch and telling detail, this landmark study of race and law introduces us to men and women of African descent who took their white neighbors to court to assert rights they insisted should be respected.--Rebecca J. Scott, coauthor of Freedom Papers
Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South challenges our understandings of the relationship between black people and the law in the antebellum South. Welch gives us a more complete picture of the black legal experience in civil--not criminal--litigation, where property rights precede and function as civil rights in the 1800s. Building on the strength of new approaches to the litigiousness and advocacy among peoples of African descent, Welch has written a deeply researched book that will engage scholars across the Americas.--Michelle McKinley, University of Oregon​
About the Author
Kimberly Welch is assistant professor of history at Vanderbilt University.​
Interesting; certainly not a well known phenomenon.
Leftyhunter
 



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