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Did You Know? Free Blacks Owned Family Members as Slaves to Protect Them

by / June 20, 2014 Black News 31 Comments

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Black slave owners in America owned slaves as a means of philanthropy to protect them from being owned by vicious white people. www.blacklikemoi.com

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Reported by April V. Taylor

Henry Louis Gates Jr. recently wrote an article for the Root where he examined the history of free African-Americans owning slaves.  According to his research, free blacks in the United States owned slaves from at least 1654 on through the Civil War.  According to African American historian John Hope Franklin, most black slave owners “had some personal interest in their property.”  Many were family members or friends who they sought to protect.  While this was the case often, there were still African-Americans who owned slaves purely for the economic interest.

In a study done by Carter G. Woodson, it was found that in 1830, 13.7 percent of the black population was free, which amounted to some 319,599 people.  Of those people, 3,776 African Americans owned 12,907 slaves.  The total number of slaves at that time was around 2,009,043, so this represented an extremely small fraction.  The majority of black slave owners, around 94 percent, owned one to nine slaves each, and 42 percent owned only one slave.  Many black slave owners who owned only one slave most likely owned a family member in an attempt to protect them.  Woodson stated in Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the United States in 1830 that “The census records show that the majority of the Negro owners of slaves were such from the point of view of philanthropy.  In many instances the husband purchased the wife or vice versa…Slaves of Negroes were in some cases the children of a free father who had purchased his wife.  If he did not thereafter emancipate the mother, as so many such husbands failed to do, his own children were born his slaves and were thus reported to the numerators.”

Not all instances of black slave ownership were quite so benevolent.  As John Hope Franklin points out, “Without doubt, there were those who possessed slaves for the purpose of advancing their (own) well-being…these Negro slaveholders were more interested in making their farms or carpenter-shops ‘pay’ than they were in treating their slaves humanely.”

Another surprising fact about black slave ownership in America is that not all black slave owners were men.  There were multiple women who owned significant numbers of slaves.  While black slave ownership may be a sensitive subject, it is important to acknowledge the role it has played in American history.

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31 Comment

  1. Sometimes we Blacks accept situations that hurt us. Yesterday I read a ruling written by Ann Williams a 7th Circuit appellate judge. I was disappointed to read she agreed with White racist judges that the N word is not bad: He is what I wrote back: “I would like to differ with the 7th Circuit ruling on James Nichols vs. Michigan City Plant Planning Department/Michigan City Area Schools Case No. No. 13-2893. Specifically I was really disappointed and angry reading Ann Williams write as follows: “Nichols claims that Johnston’s alleged “black n—-r” comment constitutes severe harassment. We have stated that while there is no “magic number of slurs” that indicates a hostile work environment, an “unambiguously racial epithet falls on the ‘more severe’ end of the spectrum.” Cerros v. Steel Technologies, Inc., 398 F.3d 944, 950 (7th Cir. 2005). However, while referring to colleagues with such disrespectful language is deplorable and has no place in the workforce; one utterance of the n-word has not generally been held to be severe enough to rise to the level of establishing liability. Smith v. N.E. Ill. Univ., 388 F.3d 559, 566 (7th Cir. 2004).” That hurt me. Really! I see Ann Williams is a racial minority. She also could be Black with White blood in her. Therefore she is Black. Just imagine her fellow White judges referred or called her “the N female judge” only once. I don’t think she will like that. Actually she will feel angry and out of place among White judges at the 7th circuit. I could not sleep after reading that she condoned that the “N” word is not severe. Of course it slips off and on in our Black community. But nobody tolerates that word being used by Whites on a Black person. The N word to me is last insult a Black person can be called by employer and especially by White employer. We have higher unemployment in the Black communities because many employers, most of who are White, still think of us as N people – completely useless and intellectually inferior to Whites. I have been following 7th decisions for a long time now. I have come to conclusion their decisions are racially motivated and have enabled employers both in government and private sectors continue to discriminate against Blacks and other racial minorities. These Republican appointed judges usually don’t want to see how employers discriminate against Blacks and other racial minorities. Their concept of life is so primitive and distorted by the way they were raised-Blacks and other racial minorities are intellectually inferior to Whites. I believe some may belong to KKK groups. Racial discrimination will not be wiped out in the 7th Circuit because it is enabled by Republican appointed federal judges. This case belonged to the jury not at summary judgment. In fact I have found even district judges in the 7th circuit have propensity to dismiss cases at summary judgment or at failure to state claim stages. District judges are afraid their judgments will be overturn if they rule for Black plaintiffs. I am asking Judge Ann to talk to her fellow judges to overrule Cerros v. Steel Technologies, Inc., 398 F.3d 944, 950 (7th Cir. 2005) and Smith v. N.E. Ill. Univ., 388 F.3d 559, 566 (7th Cir. 2004). The N word is so offensive even if only used once by employer. Ann would cry if her fellow judges called her N-judge. I hope Nichols will appeal this case to the US Supreme Court.

    • I appreciate your feelings Pastori Balele, but since freedom of speech is used in this country to say anything, people will always have derogatory names for other people who are culturally or physically different. The N word will always be used to demean some one by others. So what do we do? We thicken our skin and bounce back and throw back a derogatory name back to them. Whites have features that appears to be inferior to Blacks and we should emphasize this to them. We don’t do this enough
      because we want to be nice and hope they will change. We will waiting until the moon quit shinning before they have a change of heart. The way I see it personally I know my capabilities and theirs and my capabilities are as good or better so I come up with a retaliation when they attack me.
      This country was founded under a brutal principle that parallels actions of criminals, despite the fact this country has grown at a rapid pace. So we have to constantly on a daily basis fight the enemies and if we do not and let them run rampant they will continue to do what they are doing.

      • I agree with you. The problem is I can’t now start hating people because of their color or religions. I was not raised to play down on people because of their hues or religions. I was raised in a family with light and dark skins. In fact when in college, I was elected as senator to represent almost all white graduate students. I never saw or perceived my professors as racists. In fact every time I wanted to talk to one, they were readily available. Justice Clarence Thomas has recently said the same – that he never saw racial discrimination when in college. He must have done well in class. Racism is stopped when racists know you’re as smart as or smarter than them. He was right in that aspect. I think racial discrimination begins when you start looking for employment or place to live. There a lot of racist employers and landlords. I characterize them primitive. They think anybody with dark skin is inferior and should be avoided. These are Al Quadas living among us. As I said watch also out of some federal judges. Some are like Al Quadas.

        • Just because you fight back and some time on the level of your enemies does not make one a hater. I hate no one, only some of the things people do.
          Any time some one tell the truth about the enemy the first thing he says is that hate is being created. This statement is made to shut us up. Any time we push to learn our history correctly, some one always state that we will create hate.
          Also if some one hate you why not hate them back? Some times one have to fight fire with fire to survive, and if we lay down our arms and do not fight back there will always be some one to take advantage of the weakness. This is moving into the area of least resistance, and this is the natural way of nature and life. People or any living thing always take the easiest path, and if we are weak or too nice people will perceive this as being weak thus area of least resistance.
          Until we as Black people start to be realistic and realize that nothing good accomplished is easy, and we will forever have to fight tooth and nail to survive and eventually grow, we will stay where we are. Keep doing the same thing over and over and get the same results over and over.

          • Floyd; I totally agree with you that “why not hate them back. However not to kill them or conspire to hurt them physically. Your method works. For example, I had been writing about Crabb, a white federal judge who still thinks Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites. When I found she was racist, I filed motion to disqualify her. She refused. I did not quit. I exposed her stupidity on Facebook and Twitter. She has now recused herself from hearing my cases. This federal judge is evil, but also I know she is ugly as her opinion about Blacks. I hope she will go like Margret Thatcher who had a stroke because she could not stand seeing Britain with so many Blacks and other racial minorities. Thatcher died a few months ago; and Britons, Whites and Blacks, danced in the streets. But I don’t know why educated people like Crabb and Thatcher behave like primitive and uneducated people. Is that not amazing?

  2. At the start of the Civil War there were 450 free Blacks who owned slaves in the state of Virginia. Louisiana was the second on the list of Blacks owning slaves. Even though many AF may have difficulties understanding that some Blacks owned slaves, its important we learn our complete past. In fact according to my recent knowledge, the first person to legally own slaves in America during the 1600's was a Black person. Cannot recall his name at the present.
    Now we have to learn how those Black slave owners treated their slaves. Did they treat them humanly, did not separate children from mothers or split families, and did they allow them to work to buy their freedom?
    The genetic make up of America is very complicated if we do not learn what happened in the past. Did you know that Robert E. Lee's, the confederate general, sister-in-law was half Black? There are many pictures of so called whites in the confederate army that have questionable color comparisons.
    The worst atrocities perpetrated on the Black race in America is not their hard work from sun up to sun down, but the psychological impressions forced on us that is having a profound effect on our emotional stability today. A people can recover from hard work very quickly. In fact in some cases hard work could be a positive. However recovering from abuse is very difficult and can last through several generations.

  3. Oppression is worst than death

  4. “If you do not understand white supremacy/racism-what it is and how it works-everything else that you understand will only confuse you”
    Neely Fuller Jr

    “I freed a thousand slaves,I could have freed a thousand more only if they knew they were slaves” Harriet Tubman

    I am trying to find a connection here. Hmm…what could it be? Can You find it for me?

  5. They were only a slave if they forced to do things without pay against their will

  6. That's very interesting….I never knew that

  7. Every time I think I have known everything about the history of slavery, something comes up to shock me.

  8. Black males are non-occupational ranking males. They have NEVER been able to produce a tax base based on occupations. The problem of course also exists ALL OVER AFRICA. Blacks desperately want all the things glitter and glow. White males – occupational ranking males – MUST get out of this forced integration system with the black race. Blacks will NEVER admit ALL the problems they have always faced in the white man’s system is their own cultural deficiencies.

    Blacks think by pulling their race card they can make white people PITY them for all their problems they suffer …trying to exist in a system that god – our creator – has designed blacks unfit for. Blacks MUST have a homeland in America. Forced integration MUST end.

    • Mr. MoBig, lets not be confused about the Black man, the father/mother of civilization. You speak just like the racist whites who feels Blacks are inferior, which is furthest from the truth. Man/Woman learn the history of the world and especially this country and you will find brilliance among the Black race. However, its easy to destroy something versus building something, and the Black people of this country was beaten down for generation. When someone keeps beating you down without fighting back (when capable), one bows to the oppressors. If you would be aware of the advancement made by the former slaves from 1865-1920, you would look at the Black man differently. No Race advanced as much in 55 years from the condition of Americas’ slaves to the period of 1920’s in some cases beyond. You need to read the book “Black Wall Street” to see how good we were. Its since integration started in the 1970 when we started to retrogress. Then the advent of the penal system, war on drugs, inept school system for us, and drugs and unemployment to name a few. We did not, or to better state it we could not see what was going to happen. We wanted to get rid of segregation so bad, that it blind us to what he was attempting to do. Our slave mentality mind and thinking that he had a change of heart made us too trusting. Now this will have to change, we need to realize that he will never change, or globally, people basically will remain the same so we have to relearn this and adapt to the real world mentality. That is we will have to toughen up, be self supportive, support each other, and gain wisdom daily, then I feel will make progress with a strong foundation.

  9. alabbasu what you and I have learned is tip of the ice berg. Just remember that the most of the northerners did not have a problem with slavery. The Civil War was truly fought over economics initially, but slavery was used by the north to win the war. But informations do show that it was all about money, like all wars fought in the US and elsewhere.

  10. Keith, I cannot agree with you on that point. They were slaves, yes if they were forced to do things… Also, if they were not free to come and go at their own will. In other words if they were owned. Had no rights.

  11. Unfortunately, the word “N word has become one of the most successful branding and marketing tools of all time. In spite of its
    vile and ugly murderous affiliation of Blacks. White merchandisers of the past found a way to find a comedic approach to gain their revenue. Derogatory graphics on labels from soap to syrup, and cotton to alligator bait, portrayed bulging white eyed…grinning red lipped fruit eating darkies. And with these ridiculous advertisements the “N word”was some how more acceptable on household products . Even to those whites who considered them selves well heeled of the…” peculiar situation”. So psychologically cunning…..
    The “N word” is a reflection of all that is non productive to the African American. Appellate Judge Ann Williams is wrong to be in accordance with white judges over ruling that this word is neither
    hateful or inflammatory enough. Well….perhaps only when she finds her grinning likeness on a can of sweet potatoes at the Piggly Wiggly
    will she take note.

    • Well stated Red Tail Baby. As you stated the use of the N word became an institution with the characteristic of the pre Civil War
      slavery. It was physical force that kept us as slaves, but now it is mental force that is doing the same. We need to be cognizant of this. More on this later.

  12. I am not surprised or unaware about this issue. It even goes back to Africa where different tribes captured and sold other tribal menbers of a different tribe for money. Black on black selling of one another is very painful to read. Ther is no question as to why we are treated so poorely. We have our ansestors to blame. and now we have ourselves to blame. We sit back and complain and do nothing for for lack of knowledge, or just not concerned about anything but self. The "I got mine,you better get yours" syndrome. The population of Black americans prosume to be free but ar we really; will a change ever come. This is good information about our past that should be revealed. But lets tackle our future. Can we?
    dee.782453@att.net

  13. You are correct Denise Shepard, but we will have to relearn what it takes for us to be self sufficient. Its now time for us to quit just talking and start to act simultaneously. This issue of slavery is very complicated and there are no one formula to solve its aftereffect. Therefore despite what happened, despite the complicated issues we have to move forward and do things to make things better. On our venture forward we will learn that there are bad people in all races, but the white race have a more satanic characteristic of their badness. We have to learn about it so we can fight it. This may be the reason we talk so much, but nonetheless we have to continue to fight the battle.

  14. As Mr. Guidry said, slavery was about more than working from "sun-up to sundown…There were some things – the humiliation of our forbears and continual stripping away of their humanity in myriad forms – that had nothing to do with pay. There are some losses and disruptions to the natural order of things you cannot pay a person for – e.g., the splitting up of children from parents, husbands from wives, the often totally inhuman treatment and the indecent acts of torture, which are continually being exposed – that were perpetrated onto our forbears and remained a major component of the process for oppression and debasement for several centuries.

  15. Bought this book a few years ago:

    Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South Paperback – April 17, 1986
    by Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark

    "In 1860, when four million African Americans were enslaved, a quarter-million others, including William Ellison, were "free people of color."

    But Ellison was remarkable. Born a slave, his experience spans the history of the South from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. In a day when most Americans, black and white, worked the soil, barely scraping together a living, Ellison was a cotton-gin maker and a master craftsman. When nearly all free blacks were destitute, Ellison was wealthy and well-established. He owned a large plantation and more slaves than all but the richest white planters.

    While Ellison was exceptional in many respects, the story of his life sheds light on the collective experience of African Americans in the antebellum South to whom he remained bound by race. His family history emphasizes the fine line separating freedom from slavery."

    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Masters-Family-Color-South/dp/0393303144/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406784216&sr=8-1&keywords=Black+masters

  16. The N word is never acceptable regardless to who use it and under what circumstances they use it. When I was in Dallas, Texas we sat in at Woolworth”s for the constitutional right to eat where we purchased our school supplies.
    The hatred from white men, women and children was so prevalent that you could not only see it in their faces but you could also hear it in their voices when they used the N word. This was their way of showing their hatred and ignorance therefore to use the N word now, regardless to circumstances, shows ones hatred or ignorance or both.

  17. I had no idea that certain tribes in Africa sold ppl of other tribes n2 slavery until I watched the movie Amistad. I always thought it was a bunch of white guys kidnapping Africans.

  18. Keith Kysel, well, they were forced to do things without pay against their will. How would you feel if members of your family were forced to do something like that?

  19. There has been white on white slavery, too. In the 4th century, the Irish

  20. There is no question that this happened then and happened when the USA was in its infancy. The Native Americans were temporarily enslaved but this did not last because they knew the country better than the slave owners, and many escaped. Indentured service was first and Blacks and whites participated. However the white indentured servants were abolish because of the Black slave institution was much more profitable and stable. The cause details are too extensive to discuss now.
    I agree that whites were slaves also, in fact Blacks in North West Africa had white slaves. There are documented record that Blacks had white slaves in the United States and Brazil.
    But its the institution of slavery in the US made it appear to be more satanic then slavery during any other times.

  21. Leah Okelly our brothers in Africa participated in obtaining slaves for the Americans. Now one has to understand what really happened. The US needed to sell their molasses and rum, and a good outlet was the western countries in Africa. They sold molasses and rum for slaves, the slaves were used to raise sugar cane, produce the sugar, molasses and rum and the cycle repeated. Human was actually the legal tender for the Africans
    If our brothers who participated realized how their brothers and sisters were treated, I think there would have been a lot more limitations on their participation.
    The issue of the early US and slavery is very complicated and true information is not easily found. I suggest reading J A Rogers "Africa's Gift to America" to obtain truthful information on the birth of this country.

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