Black Slaveowners

Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790–1860


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About the Book

Most Americans, both black and white, believe that slavery was a system maintained by whites to exploit blacks, but this authoritative study reveals the extent to which African Americans played a significant role as slave masters. Examining South Carolina’s diverse population of African-American slaveowners, the book demonstrates that free African Americans widely embraced slavery as a viable economic system and that they—like their white counterparts—exploited the labor of slaves on their farms and in their businesses. Drawing on the federal census, wills, mortgage bills of sale, tax returns, and newspaper advertisements, the author reveals the nature of African-American slaveholding, its complexity, and its rationales. He describes how some African-American slave masters had earned their freedom but how many others—primarily mulattoes born of free parents—were unfamiliar with slavery’s dehumanization.

About the Author(s)

Historian Larry Koger lives in Largo, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

Larry Koger

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 300
Bibliographic Info: references, appendices, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2012 [1985]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6931-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5128-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
List of Tables      xi
Foreword      Xlll
Introduction      1

1. Free Black Slaveholding and the Federal Census      5
2. The Numbers and Distribution of Black Slaveholding      18
3. From Slavery to Freedom to Slaveownership      31
4. “Buying My Chidrum from Ole Massa”      45
5. Neither a Slave Nor a Free Person      69
6. The Woodson Thesis: Fact or Fiction?      80
7. White Rice, White Cotton, Brown Planters, Black Slaves      102
8. Free Black Artisans: A Need for Labor      140
9. The Denmark Vesey Conspiracy: Brown Masters vs. Black Slaves      160
10. No More Black Massa      187

Appendix A. Tables for Chapter One      201
Appendix B. Table for Chapter Two      209
Appendix C. Tables for Chapter Six      231
Notes      235
Index      275

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “artfully demonstrates the full extent”—Choice
  • “a valuable reference work…powerful history…well done”—Charleston News & Courier
  • “thought-provoking study”—The Journal of Southern History
  • “interesting and valuable…worthwhile”—Daily News (Bowling Green, Kentucky)
  • “intensive examination…provocative…fascinating and remarkable information”—Georgia Historical Quarterly
  • “a useful study that should stimulate further research on the status and history of free black slaveholders”—The North Carolina Historical Review