‘Free blacks’ was a term referring to blacks who were not serving as
slaves, most of whom included the Mulattos and the freed slaves
(Faragher et al, 2009). The freed slave included those that had
accumulated enough wealth to purchase their freedom, the indentured
slaves who fulfilled the terms of their contracts as well as those
escaped from their masters. Wealthy free blacks could purchase slaves
from white slave owners, especially their relatives, and grant them
freedom through manumission. In addition, slave owners granted freedom
to some of their slaves, especially those who had outlived their
importance, or those born of mixed parenthood (mulattos). Despite their
freedom from slavery, the free blacks were rarely treated with same
reverence as their white equivalents, hence the term ‘Free” was not
befitting (Buchanan, 2004).
In most South African State, the free Blacks were often treated with
similar trepidation as slaves, with slave codes applying to them as
well. Among the horrifying slave codes applied to free blacks, was
abduction, where slave catchers kidnapped and forced the free blacks
back to slavery (Faragher et al, 2009). Additionally, the society had
low regard of the blacks, hence even the free blacks were considered
inferior their testimony would not be used against any white person,
they would be extorted through taxation, beaten or even deported. All
these cruel treatment of free blacks spread throughout the south,
whereby, even the lowest of the white, would threaten a free black, and
give the infamous “good nigger beating” (Buchanan, 2004).
As aforementioned, though the free blacks were generally more skilled
and more literate compared to slaves, they were treated as bad as the
slaves, but for the forced labor. These various mistreatments to the
free blacks by their whites counterparts proves that, they were not
actually free, hence the term ‘free blacks’ was not suitable.
Buchanan, T. (2004). Black Life on the Mississippi: Slaves, Free Blacks,
and the Western Steamboat World. Chapel Hill : University of North
Faragher, J. M., Buhle, M. J., Czitrom, D., & Armitage, S. H. (2009).
Out of Many: A History of the American People, Volume I (5th ed.). Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
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