Free people of color

In the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, free people of color (French: gens de couleur libres; Spanish: gente libre de color) were people of mixed African and European descent who were not enslaved. The term arose in the French colonies, including La Louisiane and settlements on Caribbean islands, such as Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Guadeloupe, and Martinique, where a distinct group of free people of color developed. Freed African slaves were included in the term affranchis, but historically they were considered as distinct from the free people of color. In these territories and major cities, particularly New Orleans, and those cities held by the Spanish, a substantial third class of primarily mixed-race, free people developed. These colonial societies classified mixed-race people in a variety of ways, generally related to visible features and to the proportion of African ancestry. Racial classifications were numerous in Latin America.

The term gens de couleur was commonly used in France's West Indian colonies prior to the abolition of slavery, where it was a short form of gens de couleur libres (French: [ʒɑ̃ də kulœʁ libʁ], "free people of color"). It referred specifically to free people of mixed race, primarily African and European.[1]

In the Thirteen Colonies settled by the British, later to become the United States, the term free negro was often used to cover the same class of people – those who were legally free and visibly of ethnic African descent. Many were people of mixed race, freed because of relation to their master or other whites. By the late eighteenth century, the Upper South included many slaves of mixed race. Among the most well-known is Sally Hemings, who was a slave held by Thomas Jefferson and considered his concubine. She was three-quarters white, and a half-sister to his late wife. Their four surviving Hemings children were born into slavery because of her status, and were seven-eighths white. As adults, three passed into white society and increasingly married white in later generations.

Brunias cropped detail
Free Women of Color with their Children and Servants, oil painting by Agostino Brunias, Dominica, c. 1764–1796.


By the late eighteenth century prior to the Haitian Revolution, Saint-Domingue was legally divided into three distinct groups: free whites (who were divided socially between the plantation-class grands blancs and the working-class petits blancs); freedmen (affranchis), and slaves. More than half of the affranchis were gens de couleur libres; others were considered freed black slaves. In addition, maroons (runaway slaves) were sometimes able to establish independent small communities and a kind of freedom in the mountains, along with remnants of Haiti's original Taino people.

When slavery was ended in the colony in 1793, by action of the French government following the French Revolution, there were approximately 28,000 anciens libres ("free before") in Saint-Domingue. The term was used to distinguish those who were already free, compared to those liberated by the general emancipation of 1793. About 16,000 of these anciens libres were gens de couleur libres. Another 12,000 were affranchis, black slaves who had either purchased their freedom or had been given it by their masters for various reasons.


Regardless of their ethnicity, in Saint-Domingue freedmen had been able to own land. Some acquired plantations and owned large numbers of slaves themselves. The slaves were generally not friendly with the freedmen, who sometimes portrayed themselves to whites as bulwarks against a slave uprising. As property owners, freedmen tended to support distinct lines set between their own class and that of slaves. Also often working as artisans, shopkeepers or landowners, the gens de couleur frequently became quite prosperous, and many prided themselves on their European culture and descent. They were often well-educated in the French language, and they tended to scorn the Haitian Creole language used by slaves. Most gens de couleur were reared as Roman Catholic, also part of French culture, and many denounced the Vodoun religion brought with slaves from Africa.

Under the ancien régime, despite the provisions of equality nominally established in the Code Noir, the gens de couleur were limited in their freedoms. They did not possess the same rights as white Frenchmen, specifically the right to vote. Most supported slavery on the island, at least up to the time of the French Revolution. But they sought equal rights for free people of color, which became an early central issue of the unfolding Haitian Revolution.

The primary adversary of the gens de couleur before and into the Haitian Revolution were the poor white farmers and tradesmen of the colony, known as the petits blancs (small whites). Because of the freedmen's relative economic success in the region, sometimes related to blood ties to influential whites, the petits blancs farmers often resented their social standing and worked to keep them shut out of government. Beyond financial incentives, the free coloreds caused the poor whites further problems in finding women to start a family. The successful mulattoes often won the hands of the small number of eligible women on the island. With growing resentment, the working class whites monopolized assembly participation and caused the free people of color to look to France for legislative assistance.

French citizenship

The free people of color won a major political battle on May 15, 1791 when the National Assembly in France voted to give full French citizenship to free men of color. The decree restricted citizenship to those persons who had two free parents. The free people of color were encouraged, and many petits blancs were enraged. Fighting broke out in Saint-Domingue over exercising the National Assembly's decree. This turmoil played into the slaves' revolts on the island.


In their competition for power, both the poor whites and free coloreds enlisted the help of slaves. By doing this, the feud helped to disintegrate class discipline and propel the slave population in the colony to seek further inclusion and liberties in society. As the widespread slave rebellion in the north of the island wore on, many free people of color abandoned their earlier distance from the slaves. A growing coalition between the free coloreds and the former slaves was essential for the eventual success of the Haitians to expel French influence.

The former slaves and the anciens libres still remained segregated in many respects. Their animosity and struggle for power erupted in 1799. The competition between the gens de couleur led by André Rigaud and the black Haitians led by Toussaint Louverture devolved into the War of the Knives.

After their loss in that conflict, many wealthy gens de couleur left as refugees to France, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the United States and elsewhere. Some took slaves with them. Others, however, remained to play an influential role in Haitian politics.


Free people of color were an important part generally in the history of the Caribbean during the period of slavery and afterward. Initially descendants of French men and African slaves (and later French men and free women of color), and often marrying within their own mixed-race community, some achieved wealth and power. By the late eighteenth century, most free people of color in Saint-Domingue were native born and part of colored families that had been free for generations.[2]

Free people of color were leaders in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which achieved independence in 1804 as the Republic of Haiti. In Saint-Domingue, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other French Caribbean colonies before slavery was abolished, the free people of color were known as gens de couleur libres, and affranchis. Comparable mixed-race groups became an important part of the populations of British Jamaica, the Spanish Captaincy General of Santo Domingo, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Portuguese Brazil.

New Orleans and La Louisiane

Free Woman of Color with daughter NOLA Collage
Free woman of color with quadroon daughter. Late 18th-century collage painting, New Orleans.

Free people of color played an important role in the history of New Orleans and the southern area of La Louisiane, both when the area was controlled by the French and Spanish, and after acquisition by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

When French settlers and traders first arrived in these colonies, the men frequently took Native American women as their concubines or common-law wives (see Marriage 'à la façon du pays'). When African slaves were imported to the colony, the colonists took African women as concubines or wives. In the colonial period of French and Spanish rule, men tended to marry later after becoming financially established. Later, when more white families had settled or developed here, some young French men or ethnic French Creoles still took mixed-race women as mistresses, known as placées, before they officially married. The free people of color developed formal arrangements for placées, which the young women's mothers negotiated. Under the system of plaçage, often the mothers arranged a kind of dowry or property transfer to their daughters, including freedom for them and their children if the young woman was still enslaved, and education for the children. The French Creole men often paid for education of their "natural" (illegitimate) mixed-race children from these relationships, especially if they were sons, generally sending them to France to be educated. Some of these sons entered the military, such as the father of writer Alexandre Dumas.

As in Saint-Domingue, the free people of color developed as a separate class between the colonial French and Spanish and the mass of enslaved black African workers. They often achieved education, practiced artisan trades, and gained some measure of wealth; they spoke French and practiced Catholicism. Many also developed a syncretic Christianity. At one time the center of their residential community in New Orleans was the French Quarter. Many were artisans who owned property and their own businesses. They formed a social category distinct from both whites and slaves, and maintained their own society into the period after United States annexation.[3]

Some historians suggest that free people of color made New Orleans the cradle of the civil rights movement in the United States. They achieved more rights than did free people of color or free blacks in the British slave colonies, including serving in the armed militia. After the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory, Creoles in New Orleans and the region worked to integrate the military en masse.[4] William C. C. Claiborne, appointed by Thomas Jefferson as governor of the Territory of Orleans, formally accepted delivery of the French colony on 20 December 1803. Free men of color had been armed members of the militia for decades during both Spanish and French rule of the colony of Louisiana.

They volunteered their services and pledged their loyalty to Claiborne and to their newly adopted country.[5] In early 1804, the new U.S. administration in New Orleans under Governor Claiborne was faced with a dilemma previously unknown in the United States, the integration of the military by incorporating entire units of established "colored" militia.[6] See, e.g., the 20 February 1804 letter from Secretary of War Henry Dearborn to Claiborne, stating that "it would be prudent not to increase the Corps, but to diminish, if it could be done without giving offense." [7]

A decade later during the War of 1812, the militia of free men of color volunteered to defend their city and country at the Battle of New Orleans, when the British began landing troops on American soil outside the city in December 1814.[8]


Agostino Brunias - Free West Indian Dominicans - Google Art Project
Free West Indian Dominicans, c. 1770

There was relatively little manumission of slaves until after the revolution. Throughout the slave societies of the Americas, some slave owners took advantage of the power relationships to use female slaves sexually; sometimes they had extended relationships of concubinage. However, in the English-speaking colonies, the children of these relationships were not usually emancipated.

South Carolina diarist Mary Chesnut wrote in the mid-19th century that "like the patriarchs of old our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines, and the mulattos one sees in every family exactly resemble the white children ..."[9] In some places, especially in the French and Spanish Caribbean and South American slave societies, the ethnic European father might acknowledge the relationship and his children. Some were common-law marriages of affection. Slaveholders were more likely to free their mixed-race children of these relationships than they were to free other slaves. They also sometimes freed the enslaved women who were their concubines.

Many slave societies allowed masters to free their slaves. As the population of color became larger and the white ruling class felt more threatened by potential instability, they worked through their governments to increase restrictions on manumissions. These usually included taxes, requirements that some socially useful reason be cited for manumission, and a requirement that a newly freed person demonstrate a means of independent support. Masters might free their slaves for a variety of reasons, but the most common was a family relationship between master and slave.

Slaves sometimes gained their freedom by purchasing it, when allowed to save some portion of earnings if leased out or selling produce. The master determined if one had to pay market or reduced value. In other cases, relatives who were already free and earning money purchased the freedom of another. Sometimes masters, or the government, would free slaves without payment as a reward for some notable service; a slave who revealed slave conspiracies for uprisings was sometimes rewarded with freedom.

Many people who lived as free within the slave societies did not have formal liberty papers. In some cases these were refugees, who hid in the towns among free people of color and tried to maintain a low profile. In other cases they were "living as free" with the permission of their master, sometimes in return for payment of rent or a share of money they earned by trades. The master never made their freedom official.

By the early nineteenth century, Maryland had numerous free blacks, some freed after the American Revolution because of their masters' ideals. Maryland bordered the free state of Pennsylvania, which had passed gradual abolition. The Morgan family consisted of Margaret, her husband Jerry, and their two children who lived in Maryland. The family was free, but Margaret did not have papers or documents to prove her freedom. This did not stop her from enjoying the freedom she was given by her parents, who were free when she was born. According to Patricia Reid in the journal Slavery & Abolition: "Margaret openly exercised freedom by living independently, traveling freely and, most importantly, controlling her reproductive capacities and familial responsibilities."[10] Despite their freedom, the Morgan family had to move to Pennsylvania to avoid the laws enacted in Maryland. The laws in Maryland required free blacks to register with the court to prove they were free. The only choice the Morgans had was to leave the state. The Morgans enjoyed life in Pennsylvania, which was a free state. Slave catchers became common after years of free blacks and fugitive slaves escaping to Pennsylvania. Many slave catchers would kidnap free blacks whether they were fugitive slaves or not, taking them back to Maryland as they did with the Morgan family. The family was kidnapped, but Jerry was released due to his deed of manumission from Maryland. Margaret and the children were taken to Maryland to be tried. Reid notes: "In Harford County, Margaret and the children were tried and found to be fugitive slaves."[10] Margaret and the children were sold further south.

Since women usually have children, it was hard for them to be as mobile as men. Women like Margaret were sometimes captured and arrested whether they were free or not. Reid writes: "Southern laws allowed jailers to sell the suspected runaway who failed to prove his or her free status to the Deep South."[11] Margaret and her children were sold deeper into the South, far away from her husband. Jerry tried to get his family back by asking the governor of Pennsylvania for help. When he boarded a ship to travel to Columbia, the whites on the boat harassed him. He tried to escape them. He died after hitting the wall since he was tied up and fell under the boat. There were no criminal charges against the whites on the boat. Reid again: "The discriminatory Pennsylvania state laws had stripped free blacks from bringing criminal charges against whites in court."[12] Free states sometimes also had discriminatory restrictions and laws against free blacks.

Economic influence

Free people of color filled an important niche in the economy of slave societies. In most places they worked as artisans and small retail merchants in the towns. In many places, especially in British-influenced colonies such as the Southern United States, there were restrictions on people of color owning slaves and agricultural land. But many free blacks lived in the countryside and some became major slaveholders. In the antebellum years, individual slaves who were freed often stayed on or near the plantations where they or their ancestors had been slaves, and where they had extended family. Masters often used free blacks as plantation managers or overseers, especially if the master had a family relationship with the mixed-race man.[13]

In the early 19th century, societies required apprenticeships for free blacks to ensure they developed a means of support. For instance, in North Carolina, "By the late 1830s, then, country courts could apprentice orphans, fatherless or abandoned children, illegitimate children, and free black children whose parents were not employed.[14]

However, the number of apprenticeships declined as the number of free blacks increased. In some Southern states after the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831, the legislatures passed laws that forbade the teaching free blacks or slaves to read and write, which was a requirement for having an apprenticeship. There was fear if blacks could read and write, they might start slave revolts and rebellions. Blacks were not allowed to apprentice as an editor or work in a printing press. Despite the restrictions of some apprenticeships, many free blacks benefited from their time as an apprentice.

In Caribbean colonies, governments sometimes hired free people of color as rural police to hunt down runaway slaves and keep order among the slave population. From the view of the white master class in places such as Saint-Domingue or Jamaica, this was a critical function in a society in which the population of enslaved people on large plantations vastly outnumbered whites.[15]

In places where law or social custom permitted it, some free people of color managed to acquire good agricultural land and slaves, and become planters themselves. Free blacks owned plantations in almost all the slave societies of the Americas. In the United States, free people of color may have owned the most property in Louisiana, as the French and Spanish colony had developed a distinct creole or mixed-race class before its acquisition by the United States. A man who had a relationship with a woman of color often also arranged for a transfer of wealth to her and their children, whether through deed of land and property to the mother and/or children under the system of plaçage, or by arranging for an apprenticeship to a trade for their mixed-race children, which provided them a better opportunity to make a skilled living, or by educating sons in France and easing their way into the military. In St. Domingue by the late colonial period, gens de couleur owned about one-third of the land and about one-quarter of the slaves, mostly in the southern part of the island.[16]


When the end of slavery came, the distinction between former free coloreds and former slaves persisted in some societies. Because of advantages in the social capital of education and experience, free people of color often became leaders for the newly freed people. In Saint-Domingue, Toussaint Louverture had gained freedom before he became a leader in the slave rebellion, but he is not believed to have been of mixed race.

In the United States, many of the African Americans elected as state and local officials during Reconstruction in the South had been free in the South before the Civil War.[17] Other new leaders were educated men of color from the North whose families had long been free and who went to the South to work and help the freedmen. Some were elected to office.


Many descendants of the gens de couleur, or free people of color, of the Louisiana area celebrate their culture and heritage through a New Orleans-based Louisiana Creole Research Association (LA Créole).[18] The term "Créole" is not synonymous with "free people of color" or gens de couleur libre, but many members of LA Créole have traced their genealogies through those lines. Today, the multiracial descendants of the French and Spanish colonists, Africans, and other ethnicities are widely known as Louisiana Creoles. Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal signed Act 276 on 14 June 2013, creating the "prestige" license plate, "I'm Creole," honoring Louisiana Creoles' contributions and heritage.[19]

The terms "Créole" and "Cajun" have sometimes been confused in Louisiana, as members of each group generally had ancestors who were French-speaking; but the terms are not synonymous. The Cajuns are descendants of French colonists from Acadia (in eastern Canada) who were resettled to Louisiana in the 18th century, generally outside the New Orleans area. Generations later, some of their culture relates to that of the Louisiana Creoles, but they are distinct. Members of each group may be multi-ethnic.

Notable free people of color from the South or Caribbean

See also


  1. ^ Brickhouse, Anna (2009). Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-Century Public Sphere. Cambridge University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0521101011.
  2. ^ King, Stewart (2001). Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. p. 44.
  3. ^ "French Speaking 'Hommes de Couleur Libre' Left Indelible Mark on the Culture and Development of the French Quarter", Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  4. ^ Eaton, Fernin. "Louisiana's Free People of Color-Digitization Grant-letter in support". Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  5. ^ Carter, Clarence (1940). The Territorial Papers of the United States, Vol. IX, The Territory of Orleans. p. 174.
  6. ^ Eaton, Fernin. "1811 Slave Uprising, etc". Salon Publique, Pitot House, 7 November 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  7. ^ Rowland, Dunbar (1917). Official Letter Books of W.C.C. Claiborne, 1801–1816. Mississippi Dept. of Archives & History. pp. Vol II, pp. 54–5.
  8. ^ Eaton, Fernin. "1811 Slave Uprising-Governor on Trial: Claiborne in His Own Words". Salon Publique, Pitot House, 7 November 2011, pp. 11–13. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  9. ^ Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut and C. Vann Woodward. 1981. Mary Chesnut's Civil War. (New Haven: Yale University Press)
  10. ^ a b Reid, Patricia. "Margaret Morgan's Story: A Threshold between Slavery and Freedom". Slavery & Abolition. 3: 360.
  11. ^ Reid, Patricia (1982). "Margaret Morgan's Story: A Threshold between Slavery and Freedom". Slavery and Abolition. 3: 366.
  12. ^ Reid, Patricia. "Margaret Morgan's Story: A Threshold between Slavery and Freedom". Slavery and Abolition. 3: 372.
  13. ^ Berlin, Ira. Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (The New Press, 1974 and 2007)
  14. ^ Rohrs, Richard. "Training in an "art, trade, mystery, and employment": Opportunity or Exploitation of Free Black Apprentices in New Hanover County, North Carolina, 1820–1859". North Carolina Historical Review. 3: 128–145.
  15. ^ King, Stewart. Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000, Chapter 4
  16. ^ King, Stewart. Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000, chapter 6.
  17. ^ Heritage of Freedom: Free People of Color in the Americas, 1492–1900. New York: Facts on File, 2010
  18. ^ "- LA Creole". LA Creole. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  19. ^ [1] Louisiana State Government website

Further reading

  • Sister Dorothea Olga McCants, translation of Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes, Nos Hommes et Notre Histoire
  • Mary Gehman, The Free People of Color of New Orleans: An Introduction (New Orleans, 1994)
  • John Blassingame, Black New Orleans, 1860–1880 (Chicago, 1973)
  • New Orleans Architecture: The Creole Faubourgs (Gretna, 1984), Sally Kittredge Evans
  • "The Feast of All Saints" is a fascinating, thoroughly researched novel focusing on the gens de couleur libres in New Orleans. The author is Anne Rice, the famous novelist of New Orleans. The novel was adapted into a TV mini-series "The Feast of All Saints" available on video and DVD. For details on the movie, see

External links


Affranchi (French: [afʁɑ̃ʃi]) is a former French legal term denoting a freedman or emancipated slave, but was a term used to refer pejoratively to mulattoes. It is used in English to describe the class of freedmen in Saint-Domingue and other slave-holding French territories, who held legal rights intermediate between those of free whites and enslaved Africans. In Saint-Domingue, roughly half of the affranchis were gens de couleur libres (free people of color; Mulatto) and the other half African slaves.

The term is derived from the French word for emancipation — affranchissement, or enfranchisement in terms of political rights. But, the affranchis were barred from the franchise (voting) prior to a 1791 court case following the French Revolution. The decision in their favor prompted a backlash from the French white planter class on Saint-Domingue, who also exerted power in France. These elements contributed to the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution.

The affranchis had legal and social advantages over enslaved Africans. They became a distinct class in the society between whites and slaves. They could get some education, were able to own land, and could attend some French colonial entertainments. Planters who took slave women or free women of color as concubines often sent their sons to France for education and, in some cases, to enter the military. They were more likely to settle property on them as well. Because of such property and class issues, some free men of color considered themselves to have status above that of the petits blancs, shopkeepers and workers. Nonetheless, the latter had more political rights in the colony until after the Revolution.

The colonists passed so many restrictions that the affranchis were limited as a separate caste: they could not vote or hold colonial administrative posts, or work in professional careers as doctors or lawyers. There were sumptuary laws: the free people of color were forbidden to wear the style of clothes favored by the wealthy white colonists. In spite of the disadvantages, many educated affranchis identified culturally with France rather than with the enslaved population. A class in between, the free people of color sometimes had tensions with both whites and enslaved Africans.

Ambitious mulattoes worked to gain acceptance from the white colonists who held power in that society. As they advanced in society, affranchis often also held land and slaves. Some acted as creditors for planters. One of their leaders in the late 18th century, Julien Raimond, an indigo planter, claimed that affranchis owned a third of all the slaves in the colony at that time. In the early years of the French Revolution and Haitian Revolution, many gens de couleur were committed to maintaining the institution of slavery. They wanted political equality based on class - that is, extended for men of property, regardless of skin color. (Le Colour)

African Free School

The African Free School was an institution founded by members of the New York Manumission Society on November 2, 1787, including Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. It was founded to provide education to children of slaves and free people of color.

American Colonization Society

The Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America, commonly known as the American Colonization Society (ACS), was a group established in 1816 by Robert Finley of New Jersey which supported the migration of free African Americans to the continent of Africa. The society in 1821–1822 helped to found a colony on the Pepper Coast of West Africa, as a place for free-born or manumitted American blacks. The ACS met with immediate and continuing objections from such African-Americans as James Forten and David Walker, who wished to remain in the land of their birth, saw colonization as a racist strategy for protecting slavery and purging the U.S. of its black citizens, and preferred to fight for equal rights at home. Colonizers were also met with resistance and attacks from those already living in and around the areas being colonized. There was some religious support and missionary efforts were part of the colonization. Disease was a major problem, with Liberian immigrants suffering the highest mortality rates in accurately recorded human history. Of the 4,571 emigrants who arrived in Liberia from 1820 to 1843, only 1,819 survived until 1843.The ACS was founded by groups otherwise opposed to each other on the issue of slavery, being a coalition made up mostly of evangelicals and Quakers who supported abolition of slavery and believed blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the United States, and some slaveholders (in the Maryland branch and elsewhere) who saw repatriation as a way to remove free blacks from slave societies and avoid slave rebellions. The two opposed groups found common ground in support of so-called "repatriation".Among the society's supporters were Charles Fenton Mercer, Henry Clay, John Randolph, Richard Bland Lee and Bushrod Washington. The Society was especially prominent among slaveowners in the Virginia Piedmont region in the 1820s and 1830s. American presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison were among its supporters. James Madison served as the Society's president in the early 1830s.From 1821, thousands of free blacks, who faced legislated restrictions in much of the US, moved to Liberia. Over twenty years, the colony continued to grow and establish economic stability. In 1847, the legislature of Liberia declared the nation an independent state. The ACS had closely controlled the development of Liberia until its declaration of independence. By 1867, the ACS had assisted in the immigration of more than 13,000 Americans to Liberia.

From 1825 to 1919, it published the African Repository and Colonial Journal. After 1919, the society essentially ended, but it did not formally dissolve until 1964, when it transferred its papers to the Library of Congress.

Bethel AME Church (Iowa City, Iowa)

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a historic African American congregation and building in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. The congregation was established in 1868 mostly by free people of color from the south and the rest from the north. James W. Howard, a member of the congregation, bought property in a recent addition to the city and sold the southern half to the church for $50. This white frame church was built on the property the same year. Iowa City has always had a small African American community and over the years the congregation grew and declined in numbers and in finances. The original church, which is 600 square feet (56 m2) and has room for 50 people, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The congregation outgrew the small church and a new 4,000-square-foot (370 m2) sanctuary was built in 2010 that holds three times the current congregation's size.

Cincinnati riots of 1829

The Cincinnati riots of 1829 were triggered by competition between Irish immigrants and African Americans for jobs in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States but also were related to white fears given the rapid increases of free and fugitive blacks in the city during this decade, particularly in the preceding three years. Merchants complained about the poor neighborhoods along the river as having ill effects on their waterfront shops and trade with southern planters. Artisans excluded blacks from apprenticeships and jobs in the skilled trades. In June 1829 overseers of the poor announced that blacks would be required to post bonds of surety in 30 days or face expulsion from the city and state, in an enforcement of the 1807 Black Law, intended to discourage black settlement in the state.

Some African Americans had already been considering relocating to Canada, which they believed had a more accepting environment. They generally opposed the goal of the American Colonization Society of resettling free people of color "back" to Africa. Native-born African Americans had been in the United States for generations and wanted to make their homes there as free people with full rights.

Proposed enforcement of Black Law convinced some leaders to leave the United States. Added to the mob violence and destruction of their densely populated neighborhood in the First Ward, an estimated 1100-1500 African Americans decided to leave Cincinnati altogether. African Americans and sympathetic whites donated money to help the refugees and survivors. Some settled elsewhere in the United States, while a smaller group moved to Canada. Most settled in existing towns in Ontario, where numerous refugee blacks lived after escaping from slavery. A group with more resources founded the Wilberforce Colony as a place of their own.African Americans who remained in Cincinnati, and black migrants who joined them, were attacked again by ethnic white rioters in 1836 and 1841. By the latter date, they had strengthened their position in the city and used the political process to gain improvements in treatment.

Creoles of color

The Creoles of color are a historic ethnic group of Creole people that developed in the former French and Spanish colonies of Louisiana (especially in the city of New Orleans), Southern Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwestern Florida in what is now the United States. French colonists in Louisiana first used the term "Creole" to refer to whites born in the colony, rather than in France. It was also used for slaves born in the colony.

But as a group of mixed-race people developed from unions between Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans, the term Creoles of color was applied to them. In some cases, white fathers would free their concubines and children, forming a class of Gens de couleur libres (free people of color). The French and Spanish gave them more rights than the slaves.

Flag of Liberia

The Flag of Liberia or the Liberian flag bears a close resemblance to the flag of the United States, showing the freed American and ex-Caribbean slaves' offspring and bloodlines the origins of the country.The Liberian flag has similar red and white stripes, as well as a blue square with a white star in the canton. It was adopted on July 26, 1847.


A freedman or freedwoman is a former slave who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, slaves were freed either by manumission (granted freedom by their owner) or emancipation (granted freedom as part of a larger group). A fugitive slave is one who escaped slavery by fleeing.

Jersey Dutch

Jersey Dutch was an archaic Dutch dialect formerly spoken in and around Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey from the late 17th century until the early 20th century. It may have been a partial creole language based on Zeelandic and West Flemish Dutch dialects with English and possibly some elements of Lenape.

Jersey Dutch was spoken by the descendants of Dutch settlers in New Jersey, who began to arrive at Bergen in 1630, and by their black slaves and free people of color also residing in that region, as well as the mixed race people known as the Ramapough Mountain Indians.

Martin Donato House

The Martin Donato House, in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, was built around 1825. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.It was deemed significant as "an important and rare surviving French Creole house within St. Landry Parish. It is locally significant under Criterion A in the area of ethnic heritage because it embodies the economic attainment of an important ethnic group in antebellum St. Landry - the gens de couleur libres, or free people of color. Specifically it was home to the Donato family, the most prosperous free people of color family in the parish."It is located at 8343 Louisiana Highway 182 near Opelousas, Louisiana, about a quarter mile off the highway.It is a single-story French Creole plantation house with Federal details. It has also been known as the August Donato House.It was in deteriorated condition in 2004.


Melungeon ( mə-LUN-jən) is a term traditionally applied to one of numerous "tri-racial isolate" groups of the Southeastern United States. Historically, Melungeons were associated with the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia, which includes portions of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and eastern Kentucky. Tri-racial describes populations thought to be of mixed European, African and Native American ancestry. Although there is no consensus on how many such groups exist, estimates range as high as 200.According to the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, in his 1950 dissertation, cultural geographer Edward Price proposed that Melungeons were families descended from free people of color (who were likely of both European and African ancestry) and mixed-race unions between persons of African ancestry and Native Americans in colonial Virginia, whose territory included the modern-day states of Kentucky and West Virginia.


Mulatto () is a term used to refer to people born of one white parent and one black parent, or from two mulatto parents. Although historically considered a factual, fair term of racial classification, in modern day, it is generally considered to be derogatory or offensive.


Plaçage was a recognized extralegal system in French and Spanish slave colonies of North America (including the Caribbean) by which ethnic European men entered into civil unions with non-Europeans of African, Native American and mixed-race descent. The term comes from the French placer meaning "to place with". The women were not legally recognized as wives but were known as placées; their relationships were recognized among the free people of color as mariages de la main gauche or left-handed marriages. They became institutionalized with contracts or negotiations that settled property on the woman and her children, and in some cases gave them freedom if they were enslaved. The system flourished throughout the French and Spanish colonial periods, reaching its zenith during the latter, between 1769 and 1803.

It was widely practiced in New Orleans, where planter society had created enough wealth to support the system. It also took place in the Latin-influenced cities of Natchez and Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; St. Augustine and Pensacola, Florida; as well as Saint-Domingue (now the Republic of Haiti). Plaçage became associated with New Orleans as part of its cosmopolitan society.

In recent years, at least three historians (viz. Kenneth Aslakson, Emily Clark, and Carol Schlueter) have challenged the historicity of plaçage and have referred to many of its features, including quadroon balls, as "a myth".

Robeson County, North Carolina

Robeson County is a county in the southern part of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 134,168. Its county seat is Lumberton. The county was formed in 1787 from part of Bladen County. It was named in honor of Col. Thomas Robeson of Tar Heel, a hero of the Revolutionary War.

Robeson County comprises the Lumberton, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Fayetteville–Lumberton–Laurinburg, NC Combined Statistical Area.

Since 2008, Robeson County has been identified as among the 10% of United States counties that are majority-minority; its combined population of American Indian, African American and Hispanic residents constitute more than 68 percent of the total. Members of the state-recognized Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, make up most of the 38 percent of the population who identify as Native American.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is located in the county. It developed from a normal school established here in the late 19th century for the training of teachers of students classified as Indian, from mixed-race families who had been free before the Civil War. In the late 1880s local state legislator Hamilton McMillan gained state authorization for separate schools for this population, which he theorized were descended from Croatan Indians. The public system was otherwise racially segregated into blacks (mostly freedmen's children), and whites.

South Carolina civil disturbances of 1876

The South Carolina civil disturbances of 1876 were a series of race riots and civil unrest related to the Democratic Party's political campaign to take back control from Republicans of the state legislature and governor's office through their paramilitary Red Shirts division. Part of their plan was to disrupt Republican political activity and suppress black voting, particularly in counties where populations of whites and blacks were close to equal. Former Confederate general Martin W. Gary's "Plan of the Campaign of 1876" gives the details of planned actions to accomplish this.The following incidents took place mostly in counties where blacks were in the majority, but not significantly. The Upstate counties had majorities of whites and racial disturbances were uncommon, whereas the Lowcountry counties had an overwhelming black population. White militias were not so active there. In the Midlands, Edgefield District and Charleston area, Democrats exerted considerable effort to step up the Democratic vote and suppress black Republican voting by intimidation and violence, including outright murder and assassination of a black state representative.

In 1875 Charleston had a population that was 57% black, with a Charleston County population that was 73% black. Having had a tradition of a well-established class of free people of color in the city, African Americans organized to defend themselves during this volatile period.By suppressing the black majority in Edgefield County and election fraud (2,000 more votes were counted than the total number of registered voters in the county), the Democrats elected Wade Hampton III as the Democratic candidate by a narrow margin of slightly more than 1100 votes statewide. They also carried the state legislature.

St. Augustine Church (New Orleans)

St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans is in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1841 under the episcopacy of Bishop Antoine Blanc, who later served as New Orleans' first Archbishop. Established by free people of color, who also bought pews for slaves, this is the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the nation. It was one of the first 26 sites designated on the state's Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.

The property on which St. Augustine stands was once part of the Claude Tremé plantation. It is now one of two Catholic parishes in the Faubourg Tremé. The church is located on Saint Claude Avenue at Governor Nicholls Street, a few blocks from North Rampart Street and the French Quarter. It was designed by the French architect J. N. B. de Pouilly, who worked on the expansion and renovation of the more famous St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square.

Toussaint Louverture

François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (French: [fʁɑ̃swa dɔminik tusɛ̃ luvɛʁtyʁ] 9 May 1743 – 7 April 1803), also known as Toussaint L'Ouverture or Toussaint Bréda, was the best-known leader of the Haitian Revolution. He was a leader of the growing resistance. His military and political acumen saved the gains of the first Black insurrection in November 1791. He first fought for the Spanish against the French; then for France against Spain and Great Britain; and finally, he fought in behalf of Saint-Domingue in the era of Napoleonic France. He helped transform the slave insurgency into a revolutionary movement. By 1800 Saint-Domingue, the most prosperous French slave colony of the time, had become the first free colonial society to have explicitly rejected race as the basis of social ranking.

Although Louverture did not sever ties with France in 1800, he created a de facto autonomous colony. The colony's constitution proclaimed him governor for life even against Napoleon Bonaparte's wishes. He died betrayed before the final and most violent stage of the armed conflict. However, his achievements set the grounds for the Black army's absolute victory and for Jean-Jacques Dessalines to declare the sovereign state of Haiti in January 1804. Louverture's prominent role in the Haitian success over colonialism and slavery had earned him the admiration of friends and detractors alike.Toussaint Louverture began his military career as a leader of the 1791 slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue; he was by then a free man and a Jacobin. Initially allied with the Spaniards of neighboring Santo Domingo (modern Dominican Republic), Louverture switched allegiance to the French when the new government abolished slavery. He gradually established control over the whole island and used political and military tactics to gain dominance over his rivals. Throughout his years in power, he worked to improve the economy and security of Saint-Domingue. Worried about the economy, which had stalled, he restored the plantation system using paid labour, negotiated trade treaties with the UK and the United States, and maintained a large and well-disciplined army.After defeating leaders among the free people of color, in 1801, he promulgated an autonomist constitution for the colony, which named him as Governor-General for Life. In 1802 he was forced to resign by forces sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to restore French authority in the former colony. He was deported to France, where he died in 1803. Suffering the loss of two-thirds of their forces from yellow fever, the French withdrew from Saint-Domingue that year. The Haitian Revolution continued under Louverture's lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared independence on 1 January 1804. That year he ordered the 1804 Haiti massacre, in which many white people and free people of color were murdered.

Weaver, Indiana

Weaver is an unincorporated community in Liberty Township, Grant County, Indiana. Weaver's first settlers were free people of color who migrated from North Carolina and South Carolina to Grant County in the early 1840s. The neighborhood was originally known as Crossroad; however, it was later renamed Weaver in honor of a prominent family of the community. The rural settlement reached its peak in the late 1800s, when its population reportedly reached 2,000. Many of its residents left the community for higher-paying jobs in larger towns during the Indiana's natural gas boom, but more than 100 families remained in the settlement in the early 1920s. Weaver, as with most of Indiana's black rural settlements, no longer exists as a self-contained community, but Weaver Cemetery remains as a community landmark.

Zephaniah Kingsley

Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. (December 4, 1765 – September 14, 1843), a Quaker, was a planter, slave trader, and merchant who built several plantations in the Spanish colony of Florida in what is now Jacksonville, Florida. He served on the Florida Territorial Council after Florida was acquired by the United States in 1821.

A plantation that he owned and lived at for 25 years is preserved as Kingsley Plantation, part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, run by the United States National Park Service.

Kingsley was a relatively lenient slave owner who gave his slaves the opportunity to earn their freedom. He had four slave wives, practicing polygamy. His first wife, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, was a 13-year-old slave when Kingsley purchased her in Havana. He said that he had married her, which he never said of any of the others. He emancipated her when she turned 18, and trusted her with running his plantation when he was away on business. He had a total of nine mixed-race children with his wives. He educated his children and worked to settle his estate on them and his wives.

His interracial family and his business interests caused Kingsley to be heavily invested in the Spanish system of slavery and society. Like the French colonies, it provided for certain rights to a class of free people of color and allowed multiracial children to inherit property. "In the Spanish Floridas free people of color ... enjoyed tremendously elevated status when compared to virtually any other person of African descent in North America."Kingsley became involved in politics when control of the Florida colony passed from Spain to the United States in 1821. He tried to persuade the new territorial government to maintain the special status of the free black population. Unsuccessful, in 1828 he published a pamphlet that defended a system of slavery that would allow slaves to purchase their freedom and give rights to free blacks and free people of color. Faced with American laws that forbade interracial marriage, and discouraged the presence of "free people of color" (see Free black#Free negroes unwelcome) Kingsley relocated his large family to Haiti (actually in today's Dominican Republic, which at that time did not exist) between 1835 and 1837. After his death, his estate in Florida was the subject of dispute between his widow Anna Jai and other members of Kingsley's family.

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