Free People of Color

Matt Childs

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:
Free People of Color

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
  • African History
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  • Regional and National History


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Wherever slavery existed in the Americas, free people of color could be found. Despite the ubiquitous presence of free people of color during the era of Atlantic slavery, there is no comprehensive or general treatment of the topic. Most of the literature on free people of color situates their history in a very specific setting, usually a single country or colony, and most frequently a single town or city. As free people of color tended to flourish in the urban areas of the black Atlantic, a large body of literature examines their labor, urban family relations, strategies for manumission, and protection of their hard-earned freedom. In addition populations of free people of color tended to increase in numbers as abolition loomed on the political horizon. Consequently a significant body of social history examines free people of color in the abolition process. Scholars have reached different conclusions on whether free people of color more closely aligned themselves with the free population of European descent or the enslaved population of African descent. Some free people of color owned Africans themselves, while others schemed and struggled to liberate them. Ultimately no definite conclusion will be reached on that question as local social, cultural, political, and legal institutions most heavily shaped free people of color’s lives and the experiences that trapped them between masters and slaves.

Article.  7548 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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