Thursday, July 12, 2012

Diving Into. . .

File Box: 1, File No. 1.1:
Franklin, John Hope. The Free Negro In North Carolina: 1790-1860. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1943.

Available at
In May of 2008 I applied for an National Endowment of the Humanities Independent Scholar Fellowship to research and write a prequel to this monumentous book, entitled: Migration and Settlement Patterns of Free Negroes in Colonial America, Part I: The Southern Colonies, 1728-1790. The problem, I was told, was that the scope was too large and that I concentrated on too many primary sources...I needed more secondary sources. They had me completely baffled on the sources issue; but, after a short period of grieving, I regrouped and continued the research from a different angle.

The years selected began with the year the Dividing Line between Virginia and North Carolina were established and the territory was opened for settlement and ended where John Hope Franklin began, but with emphasis on other aspects not covered by the author. It was to encompass sixty-two years and five states.

Presently, the historical narrative I am working on covers three generations of a family's life in Coastal North Carolina between the years 1854 to 1954. While the focus has tightened, the span of years has extended.

Selected Text:
The photocopies in this packet are from four chapters, as follows:
Chapter II: Growth of the Free Negro Population,
Chapter IV: The Free Negro in the Economic Life of North Carolina,
Chapter V: Social Life of the Free Negro, and
Chapter VII: Conclusions.

It's always interesting to review previously selected books. What caught my attention four years earlier differs from today's emphasis. Then the focus was migration patterns. Now I'm more concerned with specific points, i.e. education, apprenticeship, religion, the Free Negro Code, housing, diet and health issues.

Several quotes from the Conclusions sum up these concerns:
It was one thing to inherit or acquire freedom and quite another thing to maintain it. . . . Free Negroes in North Carolina were, moreover, a rural people. . . however, their living in the rural areas had the effect of making their presence less objectionable, since they were seldom in large numbers. . . . Had it not been for the system of apprenticing free Negro children to white masters for the purpose of training them to make a living, the economic influence of the free Negro would have been even less than it was. . . . As farmers, farm laborers, and common laborers, they were able to eke out a living if they could find an opportunity to ply their trade. . . . What literacy there was among the free Negroes came largely from the apprenticeship system. There were also religious sects, such as the Quakers, Methodists, and Presbyterians, who were engaged in the task of training free Negroes, but they touched only a very limited number (excerpted from pages 222-224).

One note of interest: At the end of the book is a section of Appendices. Appendix I is a table entitled, Free Negro Apprentices in 1860. Craven County, where our Carters and Georges lived, there were only 16 apprentices in the county.

New sources of interest: The John H. Bryan Papers: 1773-1860. Interesting observations of the free Negroes of New Bern, in the Archives of the North Carolina Historical Commission. And The John H. Bryan Papers: 1798-1860, in the Manuscript Collection in Duke University Library.