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Chapter Six. Not Chattel, Not Free: Quasi-Free Blacks in the Colonial Era

Antonio F. Holland and Debra Foster Greene


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The study of African American history has grown phenomenally over the last three decades. Studies on slavery are voluminous and, with the new emphasis on Africans in the Diaspora, the potential for recovering additional knowledge seems limitless. The historiography of the free black population in North America continually builds on earlier works such as William Cooper Nell's The Colored Patriot of the American Revolution (1855) and George Washington Williams' History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880 (1883). Unlike some aspects of African American history, where earlier works are discredited, the studies of the free black community extend a dialogue that began more than a century ago. The history of the free black people in the slaveholding and slave societies of North America has been examined by such scholars as Lorenzo J. Greene, The Negro in Colonial New England (1943), John Hope Franklin, The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790–1860 (1943), Leon Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States (1961), Ira Berlin, Slaves without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (1974), A. Leon Higginbotham, In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process (1978) and Gary B. Nash, Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720–1840 (1988). More recent studies of the free black population build on these earlier ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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