Free Black People in Antebellum America (pt.2).

Free Black People in
Antebellum America- pt.2
African American Institutions, and Free Blacks in the
Upper & Deep South, and the West.
African American Institutions:
Black Churches
Black churches were community centers that housed a variety of organizations
as well as schools. They were particularly used for antislavery societies and
housing fugitive slaves.
Black ministers led the congregations to help start schools and voluntary
associations, as well as speaking out against racial injustice, slavery, and the
weaknesses of the community.
Although churches sometimes promoted the message of equality, many worked
toward the afterlife as the ultimate goal.
The AME church had 296 congregations with
over 17,000 members in 1846, but many
blacks remained with white affiliated churches.
White churches treated blacks as secondclass citizens. They would have to sit in
“negro pews,” and received communion after
the whites.
African American Institutions:
Education remained segregated in the North between 1820 and 1860, with very
few schools becoming racially integrated.
In the old northwest, blacks were excluded from public schools and the
government made no attempt to fund separate schools. The northeast was more
willing to set up separate schools. Overall, black public school funding was lagging
far behind.
Segregated schools tended to be run down, over crowded and poorly taught. This
led to black leaders favoring racially integrated schools in the 1830’s.
With the help of Frederick Douglass and others, Massachusetts pushed to
desegregate all schools by 1855.
Black elites had more
opportunities then children,
and schools such as Ashmum
Institute (Lincoln Uni.) became
the 1st black college in 1854.
African American Institutions:
Voluntary Associations
Voluntary Associations included mutual aid, benevolent, selfimprovement, and fraternal organization.
Women took a leading role in the mutual aid societies and
led groups such as the African Dorcas Assoc. and NYC’s
Assoc. for the Benefit of Colored Orphans.
Fraternal organizations like the Prince Hall Masons and Black Odd Fellows lodges
united black men.
The most prevalent were self-improvement, library, literary and
temperance organizations which came out of the reform spirit
following the revolution and into the 1830’s.
Phoenix Literary Society (NY), and Boston’s Adelphi Union
for the Promotion of Literature and Science are examples.
Black temperance societies were also wide-spread and led by
middle class activists.
Free African Americans in the
Upper South
Although free blacks in the upper south shared commonalities with northern free
blacks through institutions and family/organizational bonds, they differed in many
Only 1/3rd of free blacks lived in cities, and those in the rural areas lived along side
slaves and took more direct roles in their freedom. They prevented the selling
south of slaves, reimbursed manumisson, and funded freedom suits.
They also were at high risk of being enslaved since their freedom papers could be
lost or stolen, and if they were in debt their creditor may sell them into slavery as
a way of collecting debt.
Also, the upper south had far more
restrictive policies and more segregated
facilities' then in the north.
Economically, blacks had less options in the
upper south as well.
Free African Americans in the
Upper South
Tenant farming was very popular in this region and put free blacks into a contract
with a landowner which submitted them to semi-slave conditions.
Rural Jobs: miners, lumberjacks, and teamsters.
Urban Jobs: unskilled day laborers or as butchers, barbers, tailors, waiters, white
washers and stevedores.
Due to less European immigration into this region, many freed blacks worked in
factories up until the 1850’s when an influx of immigrants came to this region.
Immigrants pushed blacks out of skilled positions.
Black institutions also struggled in this
region due to the southern slave rebellion
policies. Schools struggled the most.
Elizabeth Clovis Lange and John F. Cook
were two famous black educators who
fought to continue black education.
Free African Americans in the
Deep South
Most of the South’s free black population resided in the Chesapeake Region and
numbers declined sharply to the south and west.
Many of the free blacks in the deep south were the byproduct of illicit sexual
relations between masters and female slaves, but some were Haitian refugees.
A 3 caste system emerged: Whites, Blacks, and Slaves
Like the Latin American counterpart, the blacks identified themselves with their
masters, not with other slaves. This was also fostered by formalized relationships
mandating free blacks to have a white guardian.
Loyalty was gained through giving
privileges to the free blacks, such as
employment, loans, protection, rights to
vote and sue whites in court.
Free African Americans in the
Deep South
This system of loyalty also influenced the growth of exclusive black institutions,
such as churches which were mainly white denominations unlike the AME
churches of the north.
Free blacks in the deep south also lived in the highest urban concentrations, with
50% living in cities. They also held stronger positions in skilled labor forces.
Free blacks made up only15% of Charleston’s population, but also accounted for
40% of the tailors, 25% of the carpenters, and 75% of the millrights.
There were still free black communities
and organizations. Prince Hall Masons
and other fraternal organization had
chapters in the deep south. They also
had several benevolent organizations.
Free African Americans in the
Far West
From the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean, very few black people had appeared
at this time and only a few isolated areas had black communities.
Discriminatory black laws in these western regions banned black settlement or
restricted their activities. This was very much like the old northwest.
Blacks settled in Oregon in the 1840’s, as well as in California after the Gold
Rush of 1849. By 1852, over 2,000 blacks inhabited CA.
Blacks worked as gold prospectors, steamship stewards, cooks, barbers,
laundresses, mechanics, saloonkeepers, white washers, porters and domestics.
Black communities in these regions centered
around churches in San Francisco,
Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
Northern African American communities grew
and fostered institutions that shaped the black
culture into the 20th century.
Extended families, churches, segregation, political
marginality, and limited educational opportunities
impacted their lives.
Life for blacks in the upper & deep south was
difficult. The danger of enslavement and
restrictions limited their freedom.
The social ties between freed blacks and whites in
the deep south had an impact on the
development of black institutions in the region.
Western African Americans began emerging at
this time, but remained low in numbers.

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