The fact is large numbers of free Negroes OWNED black slaves.
In 1860, only a small minority of whites owned slaves. According to the U.S. census report for that last year before the Civil War, there were nearly 27 million Whites (today, 200 million Whites) in the country. Some eight million of them lived in the slaveholding states.
The census also determined that there were fewer than 385,000 individuals who owned slaves (1). IF, all slaveholders had just been White, that would amount to only 1.4% of Whites (or 98.6 percent NOT owning any slaves) in the country (or 4.8 percent of southern Whites owning one or more slaves).
In the rare instances when the ownership of slaves by Free Negroes is acknowledged in the history books, justification centers on the claim that Black slave masters were simply individuals who purchased the freedom of a spouse or child from a White slaveholder and had been unable to legally manumit (to release from slavery) them.
Although this did indeed happen at times, it is a misrepresentation of the majority of instances, one which is debunked by records of the period on Blacks who owned slaves. These include individuals such as Justus Angel and Mistress L. Horry, of Colleton District, South Carolina, who each owned 84 slaves in 1830. In fact, in 1830 a fourth (25%) of the free Negro slave masters in South Carolina owned 10 or more slaves; eight owning 30 or more (2).
According to federal census reports on June 1, 1860 — there were nearly 4.5 million Negroes in the United States, with fewer than four million of them living in the southern slave-holding states. Of the Blacks residing in the South, 261,988 were not slaves. Of this number, 10,689 lived in New Orleans. The country’s leading African-American historian, Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, records that in New Orleans over 3,000 free Negroes owned slaves, or 28% of the free Negroes in that city.
To return to the census figures quoted above, this 28% is certainly impressive when compared to less than 1.4% of all American Whites, and less than 4.8% of southern Whites. The statistics show that, when becoming free, Blacks disproportionately became slave masters themselves.
The majority of slaveholders, white and black, owned only 1 to 5 slaves. More often than not, and contrary to 150 years of bullwhips-on-tortured-backs propaganda, black and white masters worked and ate alongside their charges; be it in house, field or workshop. The few individuals who owned 50+ slaves were confined to the top one percent, and have been defined as slave magnates.
In 1860 there were at least six Negroes in Louisiana who owned 65 or more slaves The largest number, 152 slaves, were owned by the widow C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards, who owned a large sugar cane plantation. Another Negro slave magnate in Louisiana, with over 100 slaves, was Antoine Dubuclet, a sugar planter whose estate was valued at $264,000 (1860 dollars). That year, the mean wealth of southern White men was $3,978.
In Charleston, S.C. in 1860… 125 free Negroes OWNED slaves; six of them owning 10 or more. Of the $1.5 million (1860 dollars) in taxable property owned by free Negroes in Charleston, more than $300,000 represented slave holdings (5). In North Carolina 69 free Negroes were slave owners (6). …to full article.
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