Franklin, John Hope. "The Free Negro In The Economic Life Of Ante-Bellum North Carolina, Parts I & II," in The North Carolina Historical Review, Volume XIX, No. 1, July 1942, pp. 239-259; and Volume XIX, No. 4, October 1942, pp. 358-375.
Occupational Restrictions Against Free Negroes
...although a large number of free Negroes made their living peddling, the legislature did not hesitate to put an effective check to it when the movement of free Negroes from place to place became distasteful to them (p. 246).Underlying a petition of the citizens of Lenoir County to the Assembly in 1831 was a fear that free Negroes would entice slaves to commit acts of thievery in their county, and that they provided bad morale for slaves. The petitioners also stated that
...free Negroes from New Bern brought in cakes, tobacco, and spirituous liquors to sell... (p. 247).The outcome was that in 1831 the General Assembly passed a law
...requiring all free Negro peddlers to obtain a license to sell goods within the limits of their resident county (Laws, 1831-1832, p. 24).By 1852 the free white population of the state further restricted the laws governing free Negro peddlers; and Franklin gives evidence that by 1860, the only jobs free Negroes were engaged in were those deemed non-threatening and menial. Few skilled craftsmen were employed, competing for jobs with whites. But the competition for jobs did not end there. The practice of masters hiring out their slaves became common in North Carolina, and provided an additional obstacle for those free Negroes seeking jobs in labor, farming, turpentine and timber...and as washerwomen, watermen and servants.
The apprentice system which sought to train a skilled workforce seemed to leave free Negroes to change jobs as they became available, and underlying the struggle remained subsistence farming as a means of meeting the family's basic needs.
The young Isaac Carter first apprenticed as a cooper and then a shoemaker may have put those skills to good use in getting extra side-jobs, or in providing for his family's daily needs, or in getting his crop to market; but, nowhere was he ever enumerated on a Census record of having been employed in either of these trades.
Following the Civil War, Isaac's occupation was enumerated as follows:
- 1870: Farm Laborer
- 1880: Field Hand
- 1900: Pensioner
- 1910: House Painter (at 70 years of age).
He died in 1918, just twenty days short of his 78th birthday. His occupation was recorded as Farmer; and, the cause of his death: Old Age.