White Slaves The Mulattoes

White Slaves The Mulattoes

 By Chance Kelsey, chancellorfiles.com

Chance: During the time period of slavery in America the white slave owners would have sex with their black female slaves, and the result often was children being born. Many slave owners did not help their mixed blooded mulatto children; they labeled these children black and let their black mothers raise them. These white looking children were considered slaves just like their mothers. The one drop blood rule that Southern whites followed said, that if you have one drop of black blood in you then you are black, no matter how much white blood and genetics you have in you.

Many people have been taught that because blacks were enslaved, this motivated the abolitionist and other Northern whites to put an end to slavery.

This is only partially true, some Northern whites and abolitionists wanted to help free blacks from slavery, but the major reason that motivated the Northern States to end slavery was because they saw mulatto Quadroons and Octoroons in slavery. Now the abolitionists were armed with evidence that white looking people were in slavery, they used this as a motivator to help inspire many Northern whites to go to civil war against the South.

Many whites who were journalists, religious ministers, travelers, business owners, etc went to the South and, they were horrified when they saw mulatto Octoroons and Quadroons who looked white and not fully black locked in slavery right along with blacks. Journalists, writers, travelers, and business owners started reporting what they saw, and when the Northern whites heard and read about mulattoes (Quadroons and Octoroons) who looked white being held in slavery they started to dislike the Southern Slave owners and the South in general. The fear that people who could pass for white were held in slavery motivated the North to go to war with the South.

Chance: The North believe that if a white person was accused of being a run away slave who escaped from the South, and went North with no one at that particular moment to vouch for the person and say, this is a white person I know his or her family — that white person could be taken into slavery. The North passed laws that prohibited (prevented) taking people into slavery with out a trial (if a person looks white and is accused of being a slave (Mulatto) who is passing for white the person could not be taken into slavery until the evidence was presented).

There had to be a legal hearing to verify the person is a mulatto slave who is passing for white. This also gave whites who were not mulattoes (Octoroons and Quadroons) but accused of being run away slaves the opportunity to verify that they were white by bringing in witnesses like family, friends, employers, and neighbors to vouch and verify that they were white and not mulattoes passing for white. Also later on the North passed laws that said — when a slave from the South makes it to a Northern state they were free and no longer a slave.

As previously stated, one of the major reasons the civil war started was because mulattoes who were Quadroons and Octoroons were in slavery. Yes there were other factors that helped motive the Northern whites to go to war with the Southern States — but the reality of white looking slaves was a major factor. And, it was the strongest factor of all factors.

Lawrence R. Tenzer Wrote a book titled “The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue”

This book explores the issue of white slaves and how these white looking mulatto slaves enslavement actually motivated the collective moral consciousnesses of the Northern Whites to go to civil war with the South — and end slavery.  Read Chapter Three

Read “The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue”     

Below Read Chapter Three of “The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue”    

By Lawrence R. Tenzer 

Like the patriarchs of old our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines, and the mulattoes one sees in every family exactly resemble the white children–and every lady tells you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own she seems to think drop from the clouds, or pretends so to think. –Mary Chesnut

 Regardless of the legal criteria established for being a white person, it is a fact that many white people remained enslaved under the partus rule. A most telling observation is that of Mary Boykin Chesnut, a Southern aristocrat and wife of James Chesnut, Jr., U. S. Senator from South Carolina. An entry in her diary for March, 1861 reads, “Like the patriarchs of old our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines, and the mulattoes one sees in every family exactly resemble the white children–and every lady tells you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own she seems to think drop from the clouds, or pretends so to think.” Particularly noteworthy is her choice of the word “exactly.” Imagine how it must have been for plantation mistresses to see day in and day out white slave children who looked the same as their own white children.

Worth noting here is that when Ben Ames Williams edited Chesnut’s diary for publication in 1905, he changed the word “exactly” to the word “partly.”From the wording of the original quotation, one may infer that it was quite common in antebellum households to have white children and white slave children who all looked like each other. Other accounts of white slaves were published during or after the Civil War. Reverend John H. Aughey lived in the South for eleven years and had both white and black congregations.

He told of preaching to slaves, some with red hair and blue eyes, a third of whom were just as white as he was. Dr. Alexander Milton Ross attended a slave auction in New Orleans where many of the slaves were “much whiter” than the white people who were there. In Lexington, Kentucky, Reverend Calvin Fairbank described a woman who was going to be sold at a slave auction as “one of the most beautiful and exquisite young girls one could expect to find in freedom or slavery….being only one sixty-fourth African.” After the Union had won the Battle of New Bern, North Carolina in 1862, Major General Burnside assigned Vincent Coyler to be superintendent of the poor. Coyler expressed disbelief at the complexions he saw.

“The light color of many of the refugees is a marked peculiarity of the colored people of Newbern. I have had men and women apply for work who were so white that I could not believe they had a particle of negro blood in their veins.” The memoirs of Chesnut, Aughey, Ross, Fairbank, and Coyler were published during or after the Civil War. Many other accounts were published all through the period before the Civil War in which travelers and visitors to the South made note of the white slaves they saw on plantations and at slave auctions.

Their expectation, of course, was to see slaves who were black or brown. On seeing white slaves for the first time, they often expressed surprise at how white those slaves really were. All of the accounts which follow were readily available to antebellum readers in the North. John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth was an Englishman who visited America during the early 1770s and had his memoirs published in 1784. While in Maryland, he took notice of “female slaves, who are now become white by their mixture.

There are at this time numbers of beautiful girls, many of them as fair as any living, who are absolutely slaves in every sense.” Another eighteenth-century traveler was Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville, a Frenchman who came to America in 1788. While visiting a school for Negro children in Philadelphia, he saw “an octoroon, whom it was impossible to tell from a white boy.” Dr. Jesse Torrey mused on his interesting first experience with white slavery. His book, published in 1817, contains the following account:

“While at a public house, in Fredericktown [Maryland], there came…a decently dressed white man, of quite a light complexion, in company with one who was totally black. After they went away, the landlord observed that the white man was a slave. I asked him, with some surprise, how that could be possible? To which he replied, that he was a descendant, by female ancestry, of an African slave.

He also stated, that not far from Fredericktown, there was a slave estate, on which there were several white females of as fair and elegant appearance as white ladies in general, held in legal bondage as slaves.” Several years later, an English traveler in the South named Isaac Holmes spoke of the promiscuous sexual intercourse white men had with slave women which ultimately produced white slaves.

Holmes made the observation but did not pass judgment. “To an Englishman, it may appear strange, that a white man, of any feeling, should be willing to become the father of slaves; but he does not look through American spectacles; for in the United States there are many, who, by education and association, are gentlemen, that are guilty of this shameful practice; and the consequence is, that in some instances there are slaves who are perfectly white.” Captain Frederick Marryat was a British naval officer and novelist who traveled throughout the South in 1837 and 1838.

His account at Louisville, Kentucky, is noteworthy. “I saw a girl, about twelve years old, carrying a child; and, aware that in a slave State the circumstance of white people hiring themselves out to service is almost unknown, I inquired of her if she were a slave. To my astonishment, she replied in the affirmative. She was as fair as snow, and it was impossible to detect any admixture of blood from her appearance.

” In another experience with white slavery, Marryat came across an advertisement for a local runaway slave which read in part, “Said boy is in a manner white, would be passed by and taken for a white man. His hair is long and straight, like that of a white person.” Being a foreigner and not understanding the concept of a “one drop” mulatto, Marryat commented, “The expression of, ‘in a manner white,’ would imply that there was some shame felt in holding a white man in bondage.

” The expression in the ad was a description, not a value judgment. Reverend Francis Hawley of Connecticut resided in North and South Carolina for fourteen years. His thought-provoking account from 1839 offers this telling observation: “It is so common for the female slaves to have white children, that little or nothing is ever said about it. Very few inquiries are made as to who the father is.

” That same year, Lydia Maria Child wrote, “A Missouri newspaper proves that a white man may, without a mistake, be adjudged a slave. “A case of a slave sueing for his freedom, was tried a few days since in Lincoln county, of which the following is a brief statement of particulars: A youth of about ten years of age sued for his freedom on the ground that he was a free white person…. Upon his trial before the jury, he was examined by the jury and two learned physicians, all of whom concurred in the opinion that very little, if any, trace of negro blood could be discovered by any of the external appearances.

All the physiological marks of distinction, which characterize the African descent, had disappeared. His skin was fair, his hair soft, straight, fine and white, his eyes blue, but rather disposed to the hazel-nut color; nose prominent, the lips small, his head round and well formed, forehead high and prominent, ears large, the tibia of the leg straight, and feet hollow.

Notwithstanding these evidences of his claims, he was proved to be the descendant of a mulatto woman, and that his progenitors on the mother’s side had been and still were slaves: consequently he was found to be a slave.” The narrative of the fugitive slave William W. Brown was published in 1847.

Brown related how slaves in Hannibal, Missouri were boarded on a vessel bound for the New Orleans slave market. One among them was “a beautiful girl, apparently about twenty years of age, perfectly white, with straight light hair and blue eyes. But it was not the whiteness of her skin that created such a sensation among those who gazed upon her–it was her almost unparalleled beauty.

She had been on the boat but a short time, before the attention of all the passengers, including the ladies, had been called to her, and the common topic of conversation was about the beautiful slave-girl.” Fredrika Bremer was a Swedish novelist and humanitarian who visited the United States from 1849 to 1851. During a trip to Georgia, she attended a slave market in Augusta and commented on a number of children she saw there. “Many of these children were fair mulattoes, and some of them very pretty.

One young girl of twelve was so white, that I should have supposed her to belong to the white race; her features, too, were also those of the whites. The slave-keeper told us that the day before, another girl, still fairer and handsomer, had been sold for fifteen hundred dollars.” Elsewhere she observed “a pretty little white boy of about seven years of age sitting among some tall negro girls.

The child had light hair, the most lovely light brown eyes, and cheeks as red as roses; he was, nevertheless, the child of a slave mother, and was to be sold as a slave. His price was three hundred and fifty dollars.” Also seen were “the so-called ‘fancy girls,’ for fancy purchasers.

They were handsome fair mulattoes, some of them almost white girls.” Traveling the United States about the same time as Bremer was an Englishman named Edward Sullivan. As a foreign visitor in the South, Sullivan was uncomfortable with slavery not being based on color. “I have seen slaves, men and women, sold at New Orleans, who were very nearly as white as myself…. Although it is not actually worse to buy or sell a man or woman who is nearly white, than it is to sell one some shades darker, yet there is something in it more revolting to one’s feelings.”

  Other accounts from the 1850s also tell of experiences at slave auctions. While in Richmond, an English barrister named Charles Richard Weld observed a woman and her two little children being offered for sale. The three were to be sold together.

“She was a remarkably handsome mulatto,” Weld wrote, “and her children were nearly, if not fully, as white as the fairest Americans….but as no eloquence on the part of the auctioneer could raise them above 1100 dollars, the lot was withdrawn. I was informed the woman alone would have realised more than this amount, but there is a strong aversion against purchasing white children.” (This aversion was not universal as illustrated by the Bremer account above and others.)

During his visit to New Orleans, Reverend Philo Tower attended a slave auction and observed a young woman who was “one of the most beautiful, I think, I ever saw, aged from sixteen to twenty. Though thinly and cheaply dressed, none could be insensible to her beauty. She was much whiter than many, nay, than most of the Anglo-Saxon ladies; of medium size, well developed, beautiful black hair, black and sparkling eyes that pierced wherever they darted….rudely drawing the covering from her neck and shoulders, [the auctioneer] exhibited a bust as plump and purely white as the snow-tinged image of Venus.” She was sold for two thousand dollars. Charles Mackay, a Scottish journalist, visited a slave auction where he had the following memorable encounter:

“One man–who to my inexperienced eyes seemed as white as myself, and whom I at once put down in my own mind as an Irishman, of the purest quality of the county of Cork–got up from his seat as I passed, and asked me to buy him.” “I am a good gardener, your honour,” said he, with an unmistakable brogue.

“I am also a bit of a carpenter, and can look after the horses, and do any sort of odd job about the house.” “But you are joking,” said I; “you are an Irishman?” “My father was an Irishman,” he said. At this moment the slave-dealer and owner of the depot came up. “Is there not a mistake here?” I inquired.

“This is a white man.” “His mother was a nigger,” he replied. “We have sometimes much whiter men for sale than he is. Look at his hair and lips. There is no mistake about him.” Mackay was a Scotsman who had experienced a virtually white, brogue-speaking Irishman as a slave.

Feeling disgusted, he related that he “longed to get into the open air to breathe the purer atmosphere.” A similar reaction to that of Mackay was had by a Mr. C. (identified only by this first initial) who visited a slave auction in Georgia with his friend, New England physician Charles G. Parsons.

The following is their particularly eloquent and telling account: “We saw a handbill in the bar-room in which forty-four female slaves were advertised for sale. Stepping out into the street, we found those girls sitting on the sidewalks. At the farther end of the row was a very beautiful girl, apparently perfectly white, and neatly dressed. The moment Mr. C. looked at her, he exclaimed, ‘What do you think that white girl is sitting there with those negroes for?’ ” “I presume she is a slave, sir,” said I.

“That can’t be!” replied Mr. C.,– “just look at her! Why I never saw a prettier girl in my life.” Now Mr. C. had heard that likely quadroons are held as slaves and sold in the market; but he had never believed that a young lady, so entirely American, so elegant in form and feature, so intellectual in appearance, with pure blue eyes, and the perfect red and white Caucassian complexion, was in the same degraded condition as the African girl….he was unprepared to believe it, when I said to him, “she is a slave, sir!”…Still incredulous, Mr. C. stepped up to the drover and asked, “Is that white girl a slave,

sir?” “That’s not a white girl; she is a nigger, sir,” replied the drover… “What do you ask for her?” inquired Mr. C. “I was offered 1800 dollars for her last night. I want 2000 for her.”… “Why can that white girl–” “That isn’t a white girl; that’s a nigger, sir, I tell you,” interrupted the drover, contemptuously. At the same time he removed a woolen cap from her head, which exposed the light brown hair, and added, “you see her hair is waved.” This is regarded as evidence that African blood is mingled with the white.

Mr. C. had now become excited, and he exclaimed– “Well, then, can that white nigger do more work than one of your black niggers, that you ask so much more for her?” “Oh no;” replied the drover,–and perceiving that Mr. C. did not comprehend the superior value of female beauty to physical ability in a slave, he added– “but you know she is a high priced fancy girl.” “

By heavens!” vociferated Mr. C., “‘t is too bad!” and turning to me with his clinched hands raised towards the heavens, he added, “I will never say another word against the abolitionists, so long as God lets me live!” With so many white slaves throughout the South, it is not surprising that curiosity would exist as to their ability to escape North and there pass into white society.

Such an inquiry was made by Frederick Law Olmsted, a reporter for the New York Times who traveled extensively throughout the slave states. During a visit to a plantation in the spring of 1854, he recorded a dialogue he had with two overseers. One of them pointed out a slave while she was working in the field and said,

“That one is pure white; you see her hair?” (It was straight and sandy.) … It was not uncommon, he said, to see slaves so white that they could not be easily distinguished from pure-blooded whites…. “Now,” said I, “if that girl should dress herself well, and run away, would she be suspected of being a slave? (I could see nothing myself by which to distinguish her, as she passed, from an ordinary poor white girl.)” “Oh, yes; you might not know her if she got to the North, but any of us would know her.” “How?” “By her language and manners.” “But if she had been brought up as [a] house-servant?” “Perhaps not in that case.”

 “The other thought there would be no difficulty; you could always see a slave girl quail when you looked in her eyes.” Olmsted also took note of white slaves in a group of people of color he saw in Richmond who were dressed in Sunday finery. “Nearly a fourth part seemed to me to have lost all African peculiarity of feature….

There was no indication of their belonging to a subject race, except that they invariably gave way to the white people they met.” As explained earlier, the term mulatto could be used to denote a person who looked white in appearance. The term quadroon (or quatroon), even though literally one who was three-fourths white, when used in New Orleans could mean the same thing.

Visitors to that city commented on the virtual whiteness of many of the so-called quadroons. Isaac Holmes, an Englishman who traveled in America for four years, recollected that “although the term quatroon would infer a person of three-fourths white extraction, yet all between the colour of a mulatto and a white acquire in New Orleans this appellation. Some, indeed, are to all appearance perfectly white.” George William Featherstonhaugh left from Maryland and toured throughout the slave states.

He also saw the New Orleans quadroons. “A woman may be as fair as any European, and have no symptom of negro blood in her,” Featherstonhaugh stated, “but if it can be proved that she has one drop of negro blood in her vein s, the laws do not permit her to contract a marriage with a white man; and as her children would be illegitimate, the men do not contract marriages with them.” Reverend Philo

Tower from New England wrote of “the life of a mulatto girl, or a quadroon, as they are called” with some having “clear, beautiful white skin, with rosy cheeks, making the very perfection of loveliness and beauty…forbidden by the rules of society to hold rank above the lowest, blackest slave.” The actor George Vandenhoff said of the New Orleans quadroon, “Some of them showed no tinge of their descent at all; but could boast complexions–not blondes, certainly, but–of Anglo-American whiteness.

Yet, all these girls had in their blood the fatal taint of Afric’s sun; though, in some, it was diluted, by admixture, to an infinitesimal point, that required the nicest eye to detect it–if, indeed, it could be detected at all.” Although the first-person eyewitness accounts of white slaves throughout the South have an element of redundancy running through them, it is imperative to keep in mind that they were all contained in books which were readily available to antebellum readers in the North.

Travel accounts made for popular reading, and these books, many of them by famous writers of the day, were no doubt read to a great extent. White slaves as seen through the eyes of others brought the issue of white slavery to the awareness of many Northerners who would not have been conscious of it otherwise. In addition to travel accounts of white slaves, newspaper advertisements for white runaway slaves made the issue of white slavery that much more real. Although originally appearing in newspapers in the South, they were also collected and published in abolitionist and other literature in the North, literature that was particularly geared toward people interested in ending slavery.

Lydia Maria Child published The Patriarchal Institution in 1860 in which she included four pages of advertisements for white runaway slaves (PLATE 1) William Jay proclaimed that “people at the North are disposed to be incredulous when they hear of white slaves at the South; and yet a little reflection would convince them not only that there must be such slaves under the present system, but that in process of time a large proportion of the slaves must be as white as their masters.

Were there no other sources of information respecting the complexions of the southern slaves, the newspaper notices of runaways would most abundantly confirm our assertions.” The advertisements cited by Jay include the words “white man,””white boy,””quite white,” and “clear white.” Reverend Charles Elliott included similar advertisements in his book, Sinfulness of American Slavery.

During 1855 and 1856 the American Anti-Slavery Society published a series of pamphlets, one of which was entitled White Slavery in the United States. Three of its eight pages list newspaper notices for white runaway slaves. The Suppressed Book About Slavery! written by George Washington Carleton in 1857 also contains many such advertisements. White slavery was read about in the accounts of travelers who visited the South and in Southern newspaper advertisements for white runaway slaves.

Another source of information concerning white slavery was articles in newspapers. A notable piece entitled “White Slaves,” concerning a white woman and her two children who were offered for sale at a slave auction, appeared in 1821 in a Maryland newspaper, the Niles’ Weekly Register. “This woman and children were as white as any of our citizens, indeed we scarcely ever saw a child with a fairer or clearer complexion than the younger one….there was something so revolting to the feelings, at the sight of this woman and children…

it brought to recollection so forcibly the morality of slave-holding states–that not a person was found to make an offer for them.” Even though many in the South expressed an aversion to buying white slave children, the feeling was certainly not universal. In fact, for some, the pretense of a white mulatto child was unnecessary and children known to be completely white were bought and sold outright.

William Chambers traveled in Kentucky and Virginia in 1853 and noted that “it is understood that numbers of purely Anglo-American children pass into slavery….many of them are carried to the markets of the south, where a good price for them can be readily obtained.” The “White Slaves” article is interesting from another standpoint because it questioned the partus rule.

In referring to the white children no one wanted to purchase because of their white color, the article stated, “The legal maxim of par. seq. vent. has made them slaves for life, and the same maxim will make the offspring of these children slaves.Who can think of this and not shudder?

Can there not be, ought there not to be, some limitation, some bounds fixed to this principle? We trust we shall not see a second attempt to sell them in this town.” An editorial comment followed. “White is the fashion in the United States, and surely some measure should be adopted to cause the color to be respected, seeing that we depend so much upon it!” What makes this article so unusual is that it was originally published in Kentucky and was reprinted in Maryland–both slave states. Of course, back in 1821 the organized abolitionist movement had yet to really be established and things were relatively calm between North and South.

Such an editorial was no doubt dismissed as harmless dissent. As tension mounted in the decades which followed, however, publishing an article which questioned slavery being based on the partus rule, the immutable legal principle held universally throughout the South, would have been unthinkable.

The Chicago Daily Tribune, a popular newspaper, had an interesting article entitled “A White Slave” in an 1856 issue. A white female slave had escaped from Missouri and was given refuge by two Germans in Illinois. Slave catchers captured the girl and arrested the Germans despite their claim that they thought her to be free because she was white.

One German escaped, the other was jailed.Quoting from the Quincy Republican, the newspaper which first reported the story, the Tribune declared, “You see the legitimate, the unavoidable fruits of the Slave system in our sister State….Do you wish to incur for yourselves or your friends in the Territory the penalty of five years imprisonment in the Penitentiary, for the extraordinary crime of being unable to distinguish between a white free woman and a white slave?”

Antislavery newspapers published and read in the North contained articles and accounts of white slavery gleaned from Southern newspapers as well as other references. One interesting item which consistently appeared during the mid and latter 1850s in the newspaper the Anti-Slavery Bugle was an advertisement display-ing a list of American Anti-Slavery Society pamphlets, each dealing with a particular aspect of the slavery issue. White Slavery in the United States (PLATE 2), the second title on this list, was concerned exclusively with the enslavement of white people in the South.

The constant repetition of seeing the words “white slavery in the United States” week after week after week no doubt had a subliminal effect on readers. Items concerning white slaves and white slavery were often printed on the front page. A sampling of such articles includes

 “A White Girl Kidnapped and Sold as a Slave” which involved being lured to New Orleans under false pretenses; “White Woman Sold as a Slave” where Violet Ludlow was sold several times despite her legitimate claim that she was white; “A White Girl Nearly Sold Into Slavery” which related how an orphan named Madeline, “aged about nine years…a lovely girl, delicately formed, white as the purest of Circassian race,” was to be sold at auction but was reprieved with the intention “that a Jury shall pass upon her blood.”

“The Sally Miller Case” told readers about how eleven jurors found the defendant to be a white German girl, “while one insisted on believing her to be a colored woman, a slave by birth, and rightfully the property of the demandants.” An untitled piece related the story of how a young white boy was kidnapped and was about to be auctioned off when his father appeared on the scene, grabbed him, and exclaimed,  “My child a slave? a slave? Have you dared to seize and sell a white child?”

There were other interesting accounts as well. An article entitled “Curious Case of White Slavery” appeared in the National Era, wherein a teenage girl with white parents was sold as a Negro slave by her father and was rescued by her mother. In speaking of Georgia where the event had occurred, the newspaper said,

“This fact proves that white slavery in Georgia is not so uncommon that a case of it is likely to excite any remark….Slavery has no ‘prejudice against color.’ ” Another piece was entitled “Woman, Apparently White, Surrendered to Slavery” and had to do with a woman named Pelasgie who was claimed as a fugitive slave even though she had been living as a free person for more than twelve years.

In “An Arkansas White Girl Sold as a Slave,” Alexina Morrison’s lawyer argued that she “had not claimed her freedom because she had brown hair, or fair skin, or blue eyes, but because she had been born free, and was kidnapped.” Likewise, in “White Slavery in Alabama,” readers were told of a white girl from Georgia named Patience Hicks who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Three different accounts were presented in an article entitled “White Slavery.” In the first, a seven-year-old white boy named Washington was placed in the care of a Negro woman when his mother became ill. He was subsequently kidnapped and sold into slavery. In the second, an aristocratic Virginia couple had an illegitimate love-child named Eliza who was placed in Negro quarters and raised there from infancy.

She was subsequently sold as a slave. In the third, a white girl was purchased out of slavery for $400 and then freed. Ellwood Harvey, a Pennsylvanian, attended a slave auction in Virginia with some friends and wrote of his visit in a letter which was printed in the Pennsylvania Freeman.

The Anti-Slavery Bugle republished the letter, a part of which read, “A white boy, about 12 years old, was placed upon the stand. His hair was brown and straight; his skin exactly the same hue as other white persons, and no discoverable trace of negro feature in his countenance.

Some coarse and vulgar jests were passed on his color, and $5.00 was bid for him, but the auctioneer said ‘that is not enough to begin on for such a likely young nigger!’–Several remarked they ‘would not have him as a gift.’ Some said a white nigger was more trouble than he was worth. One man said it was wrong to sell white people….

He was sold for about $250.” Earlier in the letter, Harvey wrote that “my friends were not abolitionists before, and pitied my credulity when I told them the horrors of slavery; but one week in the Old Dominion has added two staunch adherents to our cause. I wish every proslavery man and woman in the North could witness one slave auction.” The preceding accounts of white slavery from the abolitionist press were only concerned with examples of white people being white slaves.

As documented in the last two chapters, however, this issue became more and more of a threat to the white populace in the North as Southern power grew, and many publications, abolitionist and otherwise, which addressed white slavery started to include political commentaries as well.

This additional aspect notwithstanding, the abolitionist press was a powerful force and had impact because of the size of the abolitionist movement. In 1838 James G. Birney who was the corresponding secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society observed that the organization had 1,300 chapters with about 109,000 members.

Henry Wilson, a politician and author who detailed the rise and fall of Southern political power, stated that in 1840 at the height of the abolitionist movement there were some 2,000 organizations with a membership of about 200,000. That of course was 200,000 formal members, those who paid dues and participated actively.

Many others, perhaps in the many hundreds of thousands, were to various degrees empathetic to the abolitionist cause but did not formally join. Both formal and informal antislavery advocates read the abolitionist press. The abolitionist newspapers in which accounts of white slavery appeared were widely read. If anyone had doubt about the existence of white slaves, the picture “EMANCIPATED SLAVES, WHITE AND COLORED” in an 1864 edition of Harper’s Weekly would have been proof (Frontispiece).

The article in Harper’s was entitled “White and Colored Slaves.” All of these slaves were set free by General Benjamin F. Butler in New Orleans and were attending a school for emancipated slaves when this picture was taken. The article went on to name and describe each individual. The descriptions of the white slaves were as follows: “Rebecca Huger is eleven years old….

To all appearance she is perfectly white. Her complexion, hair, and features show not the slightest trace of negro blood….Rosina Downs is not quite seven years old. She is a fair child, with blonde complexion and silky hair…. She has one sister as white as herself…. Charles Taylor is eight years old.

His complexion is very fair, his hair light and silky….this white boy…has been twice sold as a slave…. These three children, to all appearance of unmixed white race, came to Philadelphia last December.” Harper’s Weekly was very popular, having a circulation of around 200,000 before the Civil War. Another example involving white slavery made public had to do with the work of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who held mock slave auctions of light and white slaves at his church in Brooklyn, New York. The moneys raised were used to purchase their freedom.

The choice of skin color was intentional, given that whites could more readily identify with slaves who were themselves white or approaching white. Such slaves also had appeal to those who were only concerned with the enslavement of white people and their plight. In 1848 the Edmonson sisters– “two respectable young women of light complexion”–were sold at auction. Beecher’s son and biographer recorded that “this case at the time attracted wide attention.”

 A young girl named Pinky who was “too fair and beautiful a child for her own good” was auctioned off and also freed with the moneys raised. In 1856 another slave woman was rescued. Beecher’s son had “a handful of photographs of children, white and beautiful, who had been set free…white-faced, flaxen-haired children born under the curse of slavery.”

The art produced at any given time in any given culture reflects the reality of that particular time and place. The artist as part of that context is in effect a contemporary spokesperson. White slavery was on the mind of the public in the antebellum North, and this was reflected in the fictional literature of the period. The Slave: or Memoirs of Archy Moore by Richard Hildreth was published in 1836 and holds the distinction of being the first antislavery novel. Archy is a white slave (PLATE 3) who tells his readers early on,

“From my mother I inherited some imperceptible portion of African blood, and with it, the base and cursed condition of a slave.” Later he laments, “I had found, by a bitter experience, that a slave, whether white or black, is still a slave; and that the master, heedless of his victim’s complexion, handles the whip, with perfect impartiality.” The novel was greatly enlarged and expanded in 1852 with the new title,

The White Slave; or, Memoirs of a Fugitive. Why was the character of Archy Moore depicted as a white slave? Why was the title changed from The Slave in 1836 to The White Slave in 1852?

Art imitates life. Hildreth’s choices were in accord with public concern over white slavery. White readers could readily identify with the trials and tribulations of a slave who was as white as they were. Before the first word in the book was read, the impression of the title alone enabled empathetic readers to emotionally experience the words, “The White Slave” (PLATE 4).

The character of Archy Moore as a white mulatto set the precedent for the heroes and heroines of antislavery novels that followed. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was published in 1852. Twenty thousand copies were sold in three weeks and around three hundred thousand by the end of the year. George Harris, a slave, is described as “a very light mulatto” who could “pass for a white man.” E. Bruce Kirkham has analyzed the novel and called attention to Stowe’s change in the description of Eliza from a mulatto to a quadroon.

“The change is important because, whereas a mulatto is either a Negro with one white parent or merely a Negro with some white blood, the term ‘quadroon’ is applied only to a Negro with three white grandparents. Eliza’s blood line and therefore, to some degree, her color, education, and social background are more clearly defined by ‘quadroon’ than ‘mulatto'; she is made whiter.”

Avery O. Craven has studied antebellum culture and concluded that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was successful because the “morally confused North had been supplied with concrete stereotypes with which to clarify and simplify its thinking.” George Harris, Eliza, and their son Harry were indeed “concrete stereotypes” of light and white slaves.

 In the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s contemporary, George Fitzhugh, a Southern writer about whom there is much said in Chapter 6, “To defend and justify mere negro slavery, and condemn other forms of slavery, is to give up expressly the whole cause of the South–for mulattoes, quadroons, and men with as white skins as any of us, may legally be, and in fact are, held in slavery in every State of the South.

The abolitionists well know this, for almost the whole interest of Mrs. Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, arises from the fact, that a man and woman, with fair complexions, are held as slaves.” Up through 1861 no less than seventeen novels utilized a stereotype known as the “tragic mulatto.”

The heroes and heroines featured in these novels had light or white complexions and found themselves in such “tragic” situations as the surprise discovery of slave status, death before dishonor, or being sold into slavery. William Bedford Clark has studied this genre and states that a white-looking woman was most often the “tragic mulatto” in such stories.

This choice was absolutely intentional. “As students of this tradition note, the fact that the slave protagonist in such novels was to all appearances white and shared the characteristics of the typical white heroine of melodramatic romance helped address the arbitrary nature of racial distinctions in general and therefore short-circuited whatever racial biases the northern audience itself maintained.”

The Octoroon, a very popular play scheduled to be performed at Ford’s Theatre the night after Lincoln attended Our American Cousin there, shows that the “tragic mulatto” character had broad appeal and was not limited to novels. White readers and theatergoers were readily able to identify with white or nearly white characters and their oppression under slavery.

This explains the reason they were utilized instead of characters with darker complexions. There were two distinctly different ways of looking at white mulattoes–socially and physiologically. Socially, a white partus slave looked as white as any white person but was considered a black person because he or she had “one drop” of black blood from a distant black female ancestor who was a slave. Such was the case when Mr. C. was told,

“That’s not a white girl; she is a nigger, sir.” Physiologically speaking, however, white partus slaves were white people because all traits of their remote black ancestry had disappeared. The North saw these white slaves as whites. The South saw these white slaves as blacks. An 1857 issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune commented on racial classification in the South.

“The southern census takers, it is notorious, returned all persons as blacks who, were not more than half white. Those who possessed straight hair and Anglo-Saxon features they set down as mulattoes, many of whom were as white-skinned as their owners.”

The actual number of white mulatto slaves is unknowable because all shades from “one drop” to those showing some discernible degree of black admixture were classed together as mulattoes without any distinction as to color.

Travelers who spoke of white slaves in the South, advertisements for white runaway slaves, newspaper articles about white slaves, and light and white heroes and heroines in “tragic mulatto” fiction all served to validate that there were white people who were enslaved in the South. Disbelievers were shown, in the words of the newspaper article cited earlier, that “Slavery has no ‘prejudice against color.’


  1. Chance

    It had to be hard being a white mulatto slave, because you got disliked by whites, for having some black in you, and blacks for having a white phenotype (physical appearance).

  2. Kahlil

    hey chance:

    i’m checkin’ out, dude. peace.

  3. Chance

    @ Kahlil,

    Kahlil said:hey chance: i’m checkin’ out, dude. peace.

    My response: Kahlil it was nice having you here please feel free to come by anyime in the future. You contributed alot. There is also, a strong possibility that I wil open a mixed race mulatto website/forum for us mulattoes. This is very likely, it will be a place dedicated to helping us mulattoes put an end to the ODR (one drop rule). This will happen in early 2008 or sooner (late 2007). I am just learning more so when I start I will be prepared. Keep checking in.

  4. blancsurblanc

    This dynamic is still into play today; I’m a phenotypically White Creole who lived “Black” for 30 years; but, eventually, my White Blood “caught up” to me & I began to receive “Passes” everywhere I went.
    Now I’m 100% White; just as before, I was 100% Black. Thanks, Chance, for your liberating Essais.

    best Kahlil

    p.s. Now tha I’m 100% White, I can’t return to this site. BYE, everybody & ON(C)E LOVE(D)!

  5. Chance

    @ blancsurblanc (Kahlil),

    Thanks for your input here at this website, it was appreciated. Hopefully you will come by again in the future.

  6. Elle

    “This dynamic is still into play today; I’m a phenotypically White Creole who lived “Black” for 30 years; but, eventually, my White Blood “caught up” to me & I began to receive “Passes” everywhere I went.”

    what do you mean? you mean people thought you were white? did they treat you differently? if so then why did it take you this long to decide to be white?

  7. Vanilla Phoenix

    Charles Mackay, a Scottish journalist, visited a slave auction where he had the following memorable encounter:

    “One man–who to my inexperienced eyes seemed as white as myself, and whom I at once put down in my own mind as an Irishman, of the purest quality of the county of Cork–got up from his seat as I passed, and asked me to buy him.” “I am a good gardener, your honour,” said he, with an unmistakable brogue.

    “I am also a bit of a carpenter, and can look after the horses, and do any sort of odd job about the house.” “But you are joking,” said I; “you are an Irishman?” “My father was an Irishman,” he said. At this moment the slave-dealer and owner of the depot came up. “Is there not a mistake here?” I inquired.

    “This is a white man.” “His mother was a nigger,” he replied. “We have sometimes much whiter men for sale than he is. Look at his hair and lips. There is no mistake about him.” Mackay was a Scotsman who had experienced a virtually white, brogue-speaking Irishman as a slave.

    Feeling disgusted, he related that he “longed to get into the open air to breathe the purer atmosphere.”

    I’LL DRINK 2 THAT!:

    LOL! ~;D

  8. David Flint

    The first slaves in the English colonies, which later became the USA and Canada,were white people from England, such as criminals whose sentence was reduced from death to slavery, and homeless children. The existence of white slaves bothered no one at the time, and there is no reason why it should have bothered anyone later. There was obviously a natural revulsion that close relatives born to black and part black mothers, such as half-brothers and sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, were treated as slaves. There is no need to make the anti-white racist claim that the only objection was that light complexioned persons were slaves.

  9. Chance

    @ David Flint,

    David Flint wrote: There is no need to make the anti-white racist claim that the only objection was that light complexioned persons were slaves.

    My response: I hear what you are saying, but if you really read the entire essay you would have understood that the sources and references — that where quoted by the author are based upon valid and verifiable sources. The reality is, that when whites (northern whites and whites visiting from other countries) during slavery times saw mulattoes who had quadroonic and octoroonic phenotypes (physical appearances) in slavery it made many whites from the north and other countries who went to the south to visit or do business very angry. They found it repulsing to see mulattoes who were white in phenotype locked down in slavery.

  10. Honey

    My dear Chancellor:

    When are you opening the mulatto website/forum for us mulattoes? (and what is the web address?)

    Thank you!

  11. Chance

    It will be open in march of 2008 (early to mid march hopefully before March 20, 2008, I want to start the year off fresh, and new, a total new year. I am letting 2007 go out. I am also, thinking about having a part on the forum that will be for creole topics. Creoles will have a forum section titled creole where we can post topics, essays, photos, etc about creole culture. Cajun can be posted there too. The mulatto website will open. In 3 months. I will also have a link here at this blog. I will also announce it too. I will try to keep the link where it can be seen towards the top of this blog.

    Also when march rolls around try to remind by emailing or leaving a comment here saying this is March coming up will the mulatto site be open this March. I am also seeing what needs to be added to the forum. Commenters will be able to post topics too. So March 2008 is the month.

    It will be a forum for people to post topics, and I will have a content management system also for news updates about mulatto and creole subjects, and posts about news from the general media. In the future audio, pod cast possibly will be added too. I want us mulattoes and creoles (mixed race) to have a space for us to all come together on the Internet an share. I plan also to contact media organizations and let them know we exist. Other ethnic and racial groups are welcomed too.

    I have been semi sad because I see mulattoes go to websites , blogs, and forums that allow you to talk about mulatto topics — but there are some problems I have noticed. I will try to avoid these problems that these forums and websites and blogs have. I have noticed, that mixed race people need to feel protected also, from other people who try to insult, ridicule, and discourage them from self identifying as mixed race. I have a couple of domain names I am trying to decid which one I will use. When I open the site right above where it says recent comments on my blog. I will have the link to the domain (mulatto website) there.

    March of 2008!

  12. Honey

    Great – and thanks! I will certainly leave a “reminder message”, as I am looking forward to this new site.

    p.s. I know EXACTLY what you mean regarding the need to feel “protected”…

  13. Chance

    Thanks and be on the look out!!!

  14. Ahaa, its pleasant discussion about this post at this place at this blog, I have
    read all that, so now me also commenting here.

  15. Jrad

    Interesting read, however the original cause of the civil war wasn’t slavery, it was state’s rights vs federal government, property dispute (fort Sumter), and state succession. Lincoln, with a master stroke of a pen added slavery into the mix at a time when the south was virtually defeated because he knew the democrats would fight tooth and nail to keep slavery legal so the abolishing slavery could only be done after the south was virtually defeated. It had to be perfectly timed too, if slavery was abolished after they surrendered, it may cause an uprising in the south, but if it was done just before the confederate armies were crushed, they would have to accept it. Claims that the war begun over the issue of slavery are false. History is often rewritten to be more palatable to those in charge. For example, there were powerful forces in the Democratic party that turned to extra-legal methods to keep the blacks working in the fields by controlling the prices of the crops and instituting “share-crop” farming where blacks would be given parcels of land to farm and allowed to keep half the income, but they had to sell the crops for prices controlled by the land owners and this was all enforced by the Klu Klux Klan which was run by the same democrats who lost the battle to keep slavery legal. Other methods they employed were voter suppression and Jim Crow laws, and even though we have proof of this, at least one major university lists lincoln as a democrat in an obvious attempt to hide the horrible history of that party.

    If you want to explore the abolitionist movement you should go back decades before the civil war and you’ll find there was a strong political movement in the new-england states to abolish slavery in all the states. This was fueled mostly by Christian teachings on the pulpit of many churches that spilled over into the political scene. If you enjoy watching movies I’d recommend the movie Amistad, the true story about a group of blacks that were captured in Africa, sold to hispanic slave traders and auctioned in the west indies and eventually freed themselves on their way to auction in north america. They were arrested when found in command of the ship they took from their captors and proceeded to win every court battle upto and including the final case before the U.S. supreme court where they affirmed that they were indeed free men and had the right to resist their captors using deadly force. This was an uphill battle considering the majority of the supreme court justices were southern slave owners themselves.

    Decades later Abraham Lincoln joined the newly formed Republican party which was formed by the abolitionist movement with the expressed purpose of freeing the slaves. When the Civil war broke out it was a dispute over federal troops occupying a fort in South Carolina that was now an independent state and no longer part of the Union. The other southern states joined them to form the Confederate states of America so they could resist the US governrment. At that time there was fear that the US had plans to free the slaves, but that was only a minor concern at the time. History has been rewritten to make it look like it was the fueling of the battle, but that isn’t based in fact. A good movie that covered the early civil war is Gods and Generals, I highly recommend watching it, it not only gives an overview of the thoughts of the various states, but also a deep look inside the personalities of the men who fought the war, and most important it set aside “political correctness” in favor of “historical fact”.

    Today we should be grateful for great men like Abraham Lincoln, and those church pastors who were brave enough to preach the abolitionist cause when it wasn’t “politically correct” to do so at the time. The 1800s were a difficult century but a progressive one, but progress has it’s costs and it could be argued that the first generation of freed slaves found life more difficult than under slavery, but they persevered and pushed on through hardship because they knew there was a better world waiting to embrace their children, and their children’s children.

  16. Paulette

    This is very interesting, because my great great great grandfather was Mulatto, who was born in 1788 in England., thank you for this information.

  17. Louis Farrakhan

    WHAT MULATTO OBAMA FORGOT TO TELL THE NEGRO AMERICAN:

    THE BLACK SLAVE OWNERS
    By Joseph E. Holloway

    The majority of black slave owners were members of the mulatto class, and in some cases were the sons and daughters of white slave masters. Many of the mulatto slave owners separated themselves from the masses of black people and attempted to establish a caste system based on color, wealth, and free status. According to Martin Delany, the colored community of Charleston City clung to the assumptions of the superiority of white blood and brown skin complexion.

    These mulattoes of the old free Black elite did not attend church with the dark-skinned blacks of Charleston City. They not only formed congregations which excluded freedmen of dark complexion, but they only married among other mulattoes to “keep the color in the family.”

    Large numbers of free Blacks owned black slaves in numbers disproportionate to their representation in society. According to the federal census of 1830, free blacks owned more than 10,000 slaves in Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia. The majority of black slave-owners lived in Louisiana and planted sugar cane.
    Slave holding among the mulatto class in South Carolina was widespread according to the first census of 1790, which revealed that 36 out of 102, or 35.2 percent of the free Black heads of family held slaves in Charleston City. By 1800 one out of every three free black recorded owning slave property. Between 1820 and 1840 the percentage of slaveholding heads of family ranged from 72.1 to 77.7 percent, however, by 1850 the percentage fell to 42.3 percent.

    According to the U.S. Census report in 1860 only a small minority of whites owned slaves. Out of a population of 27 million whites only eight million lived in the South, and out of this population fewer than 385,000 owned slaves. In short, the total white population own about 1.4, while the southern white population own about 4.8 enslaved Africans.
    On the other hand the black population in 1860 was 4.5 million, with about 500,000 living in the South. Of the blacks residing in the South, 261,988 were not slaves. Of this number, 10,689 lived in New Orleans. In New Orleans over 3,000 free blacks owned slaves, about 28 percent of the free Black population in the city.

    Year Owners Slaves
    1790 49 277
    1800 36 315
    1810 17 143
    1820 206 1,030
    1830 407 2,195
    1840 402 2,001
    1850 266 1,087
    1860 137 544

    The following chart shows the free Black slave owners and their slaves in Charleston, 1790-1860.In 1860 there were at least six African Americans in Louisiana who owned 65 or more slaves. The largest number, 152 slaves, were owned by the widow C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards, who owned a large sugar cane plantation. Another Black slave magnate in Louisiana with over 100 slaves was Antoine Dubuclet, a sugar planter whose estate was valued at $264, 000. In North Carolina 69 free Blacks were slave owners.
    The majority of urban black slave owners were women. In 1820, free black women represented 68 percent of heads of households in the North and 70 percent of slaveholding heads of colored households in the South. The large percentage of black women slave owners is explained by manumission by their white fathers, or inheritance from their white fathers or husbands. Black women were the majority of slaves emancipated by white slave owning men with whom they had sexual relations. Thirty-three percent of all the recorded colonial manumissions were mulatto children and 75 percent of all adult manumissions were females.

    THE FIRST BLACK SLAVE OWNER–AND THE ORIGINS OF SLAVERY

    Euro-Americans arrived in Jamestown Virginia in 1607, and the first large group of Africans arrived in 1619. However, House of Burgess records show that Africans were already in the colony before 1619. John Rolfe provides us with an eyewitness account of this first group. “About the last of August [1619] came a Dutch man of Warre that sold us twenty negars.” Among them was one called Antonio from Angola. Later, we find that Antonio becomes Anthony Johnson. Other listed was Angelo, a negro woman,” and John Pedro, a neger aged 30.” The census of 1624-25 showed that there were twenty-three Africans living in Jamestown, Virginia listed as servants and not slaves.

    Africans coming to Jamestown between 1630 and 1640 could expect to be freed after serving their indented period of time about seven to ten years for Africans and Indians. At this time there was no system of perpetual servitude or slave for life, but the system was rapidly evolving. Between 1640 and 1660 slavery was becoming a customary reality. In 1640 three servants of Hugh Gwyn, “a Dutchman called Victor, a Scotchman named James Gregory, and John Punch, a negro,” having run away from their master were overtaken in Maryland and brought back to stand trial for the misbehavior. The verdict of the court would change the system of indentured servitude and set the system in transition to plantation slavery. The court ruled that the three servants shall received punishment by whipping and have “thirty stripes apiece.” The court ordered that the Dutchman and the Scotchman should “first serve out their times with their master according to their Indentures and one whole year apiece after the time of their service is expired” and that they shall served the colony for three years. “The third being a negro. . .shall serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life.” This marks the first time that race and color becomes a factor in the status of both black and white indentured servants. In other words, the system is rapidly evolving to meet the new demand for cheap labor, and race is slowing being used as the justification for the enslavement of peoples of African origins. Between 1640 and 1660 Africans were going to court and suing for their freedom.

    In 1644 Thomas Bushrod, assignee of Colonel William Smith, sold a mulatto boy named Manuel “as a slave for-Ever, but in September, 1644 the said servant was by the Assembly adjudged no Slave and but to as other Christian servants do and was freed in September, 1665.” A similar ruling is found in the case Robinson.
    In 1649, there were about three hundred Africans in the colony and an increasing mulatto population. African and European indentured servants off springs were increasing and considered alarming in regard to the status of the mulatto. That is a system was evolving based on being either black or white.

    Africans who entered Jamestown between 1620 to 1650 could expect to be freed after serving their indented time and given 50 to 250 acres of land, hogs, cows and seeds and the right to import both white and black indentured servants. For a brief period in American history between 1630 to 1670, a number of Africans had become freedmen and owned indented white servants. The act of 1670 forbidden free Negroes to own Christian servants but conceded the right to own servants of their own race. By 1670, it was becoming customary to hold African servants as “slaves for life,” and by 1681 what was customary became law.

    The first laws regarding the status of Africans recognized the free blacks. The first status was passed in 1662 provided that the status of offspring should follow that status of the mother. What this law did was to allow white fathers to enslave their own children, and free women of color to perpetuate the free black population. In other words, it also guaranteed freed black females the right to extend their free status to their children. Black women who have served their indentured period would not provide foundation for the free black community. Many of those African who were grandfathered in the new system not only became the free black community, but this is the origins of Black slave owners.
    The act of 1668 dealing with the condition of the colored population related solely to the tax obligations of a free black woman, and two years later an act guaranteed to “negroes manumitted or otherwise free” the right to own servants of their own race and expressly denied to them the right to purchase or to own white or “Christian servants.” This law recognized and sanctioned slavery, but also guaranteed the continuity of the free black class, who were now largely mulatto.

    ANTHONY JOHNSON

    Black slave owners have not been studied as a part of American history, rather as a datum to American history, and yet slavery as a perpetual institution is legalized based on a case brought before the House of Burgess by an African, who had been indentured in Jamestown, Virginia 1621 and was known as Antonio the Negro according to the earliest records. He later Anglicized his name to Anthony. Anthony Johnson was believed to be the first Black to set foot on Virginia soil. He was the first black indentured servant, the first free black, and the first to establish the first black community, first black landowner, first black slave owner, and the first person based on his court case to establish slavery legally in North America. One could argue that he was the founder of slavery in Virginia.
    Anthony Johnson arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1621. In 1623, Antoney[sic] and Isabella married. The next year they were the proud parents of William. William is believed to be the first African American born in British America. During his first years in North America, he escaped death in an Indian attack on Jamestown. During the following year Africans and people of color were a small minority in the Virginia colony. The census of 1625 reported only twenty-three Africans living in the colony out of a total of 1,275 white people and indigenous Africans. By 1649 the total black population was only 300 out of a total of 18,500 whites.

    In 1635 Johnson’s master, Nathaniel Littleton finally released him. As the custom was he received a 250 acre plantation in 1651 under the “head right system” by which the colonial government encouraged population growth by awarding fifty acres of land for every new servant a settler brought to Virginia. He became the master of both black and white servants.

    Anthony Johnson’s plantation was located on the neck of land between two creeks that flowed into the Pungoteague River in Northampton County. A few years later, his relatives, John and Richard Johnson, also acquired land in this area. John brought eleven servants to the colony and received 550 acres, and Richard brought two and received 100 acres.

    In 1654 Anthony Johnson went to court and sued his white neighbor for keeping his black servant John Casor. Casor claimed that Johnson “had kept him his serv [an] t seven years longer than hee should or ought. Johnson who the courts described as an “old Negro,” claimed that he was entitled to “ye Negro [Casor] for his life.” Johnson realized that if he continued and persisted in his suit, Casor could win damages against him. So, Johnson brought suit against his white neighbor Robert Parker, whom Johnson charged had detained Casor “under pretense [that] the s[ai]d John Casor is a freeman.” The courts now ruled in his favor and John Casor was returned to him and Parker had to pay the court costs.

    This case establishes perpetual servitude in North America, and it is ironic that the case was brought to the court by an African who had arrived from Angola in 1621. Slavery was established in 1654 when Anthony Johnson, Northampton County, convinced the court that he was entitled to the lifetime service of John Casor; this was the first judicial approval of life servitude, except as punishment for a crime.

    Anthony Johnson lived on his plantation surrounded by his white neighbors. He had entered a system not based on slavery, but indentured servitude. There were many Anthony Johnson’s in America, who never spent a day in slavery but were owners of slaves.

    MARIE THERESE METOYER

    In 1767, a Frenchman named Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer met Marie Therese Coin-Coin from the Kongo and promptly fell in love. They became immediate occupants in Natchitoches, Louisiana where Marie and Claude lived together as man and wife. They had their first children together in January 1768, a set of twins. Things were rough going for the couple; the church would not have anything to do with the relationship and at this time Marie and her infant son Augustine were still enslaved. Early in 1776 Metoyer purchased his child and shortly after that in a private document he freed Marie and the child. Years later Marie and Metoyer broke up but, not before fathering six children. Marie stayed in Natchitoches and worked the Melrose plantation Claude Metoyer left for her; he then moved to New Orleans, left for France and married a proper French woman.
    In 1778 free nonwhites were a very small minority in Natchitoches, Louisiana. By 1785, that had not changed. Marie, Augustine, and two additional sons born to her after manumission were half of the free nonwhite population. By 1786, she had eight children Augustine, Pierre, Joseph, Dominique, Francois, Toussaint, Louis, Marie Suzanne, four of whom were still enslaved.

    From the money and land that Metoyer gave her, she started a plantation. The first crop was tobacco, and in 1792 she was shipping 9,900 rolls to Cuba for cigars (Mills, 30). She also produced indigo, manufactured medicine and the major source of her income came from hunting bears and fowl. All this was done with the help of her older sons, because she had no slaves at this time. She tried for nine years to free her other children from slavery and in 1815 when Metoyer died all her children were freed. In 1816 written Church documents show that she had twelve slaves, but local tradition credits her with many more. Marie Theresa now had three plots of land estimated at 11,000 acres. She was now in her late sixties and completely turned over the plantation to her children. She died sometime in the spring of 1816.

    Augustine was now married and on his own since 1795. He was the first of Marie and Claude’s children to acquire a plantation, and become a slave owner. Within two years he purchased his first slave, a male between the age of eighteen and twenty to help him clear the fields. Most of the slaves he bought were for labor, but he did purchase some for family devotion. In 1798, he bought his second slave, an eight-year-old named Marguerite who was his wife’s sister. In 1800, $300 was paid for his third slave; this was a child of his still enslaved brother. The next year a slave named Marie was purchased and became Pierre’s wife. His second labor slave was purchased in 1806, a female to be the wife of the male he already owned. In June of 1809, Augustine purchased eight “African Negroes” for $3,500 cash: a male, five boys and two girls aged eleven to thirteen, and then three of the males were sold to his brother for $1,350. In 1810, he purchased two more slaves from a planter in the next county. Similar purchases and manumissions are recorded for of the Metoyer children. In 1810, Marie Suzanne purchased a slave costing $600; the peculiar thing was that she was still a slave herself. By the 1810 census Augustine had seventeen slaves; Louise, fifteen; Pierre, twelve; Dominique, eight; Francois, three; Joseph, two; and Toussaint, one. A total of fifty-eight slaves were acquired in just twelve years. The fifty-eight slaves had increased to 287 by the end of 1830. The Metoyer surname owned an average of 2.3 slaves per person, and the whites in the county only owned an average of .9 slaves per person. No other family group came close to matching the holdings of the Metoyer name.

    The affluent period was between 1830 and 1840 for the Metoyer family. Pierre, one of the less prosperous brothers died in 1834 leaving a plantation of 677 acres, after giving his seven children land for their marriages. Augustine divided the land between six children and kept two plantations for himself, which contained 2,134 acres (Mills, 109). Early in 1850 the Metoyer family had improved their land by 5,667 acres and had a total of 436 slaves. In the treatment of Metoyer family slaves there are some contradictory statements.

    When it came to the treatment of slaves black owners were “in a bind”. If they were nice to their slaves, they were considered by the whites to be overly tolerant. On the other hand, if they treated their slaves harshly the blacks would say they were abusive of “their people”. Legend has it that one of the original Metoyer brothers was a hard taskmaster, but not to his own slaves. He would try-out the slaves and makes them do the worst work on his plantation, things that he didn’t want his own slaves doing. After the work was done he would return the slave and claim poor working habits. That same tradition holds for one of the sisters also; there are also many written advertisements about runaway slaves that the Metoyer family put in the local newspaper. They occasionally hired a slave catcher to retrieve a slave. There is no real proof that the Metoyer family was any different from other slave owner’s black or white. Not all of the black slave owners worked and owned plantations. There were many black masters who were artisans and used slaves as workers. One of the most prominent of these owners was William Ellison.

    WILLIAM ELLISON (APRIL)

    On June 20, 1820 April Ellison appeared in the Sumter District courthouse in Summerville, South Carolina, to change his slave name. Since, he was a free man he wanted his name changed to his former master’s William.

    After his emancipation William moved to Stateburg, South Carolina (see figure 2) and became an apprentice for Mr. William McCreight. After four years of hard labor and William Ellison was ready to start his own business as a gin maker. The first few years he primarily repaired gins, but each year his customers and reputation grew. Between June 8, 1816 and January 1817, William (then April) purchased and freed his wife Matilda and his daughter Eliza Ann and brought them to Stateburg. His son Henry was born in or near Stateburg in January 1817, followed two years later by William Jr. and in another two years by Reuben.

    By 1820 Ellison had managed to buy his first two slaves, two males, ages twenty-six and forty-five respectively. With the purchase of the two slaves he demonstrated to the local whites that he was not afraid to own, use and exploit slave labor. In just four short years he was a master gin maker, had changed his name and was now a slave owner.
    William purchased a valuable location for his shop right at the cross road of town. The going rate at the time was $3.00 to $7.00 an acre, but he knew what prime land was worth and paid $375.00 for the land to his shop. The gin business flourished, and his reputation among the whites grew. Now that he was a prominent figure in the community he purchased more land, but this land was for a plantation.

    To William Ellison slaves were a source of labor. This ideology helps to explain why there was a ratio male to female of 4 to 1 in the 1860s. The male slaves were a direct source of income, the females were future benefits. Assuming that the women produced children at a ratio of one boy to one girl the best explanation for a shortage of girls is that they were sold as slaves. The average price for a slave girl was $400 and selling twenty girls would add additional $8,000 cash, which could contribute to land and slave purchases. This silent tradition around Stateburg was not questioned, but his reputation as a harsh master was talked about. His slaves were said to be the district’s worst fed and clothed. Ellison and his family lived frugally; he was even more tightfisted about providing food, clothes, and housing for his slaves. His harsh treatment may have come from the fact that his slaves were very bitter, because the men and women had seen their daughters sold away into slavery. Also, the harsh treatment could have been from Ellison’s need to prove to the whites that he was not soft on slaves, because of his color. Sometimes his slaves ran away, and on at least one occasion he hired a slave catcher. He never skipped on medical care for his slaves, but he did not care to help their spiritual needs. Through all the years William Ellison may have been harsh on his slaves, but the money they produced helped keep his family well-to-do up until the Civil war.
    In 1829 he purchased two more male slaves between the ages twelve and twenty-four. Early in the 1830s Ellison started using his sons as gin makers, but there was still more work than the men could handle. At the end of the decade, Ellison now owned thirty-six slaves thirty were male, and six female who mostly worked the fields and produced children. The census at this time had Ellison with fourteen slaves. As his ownership of slaves grew so did his land, buying over 350 acres in that ten-year span. By his fiftieth birthday, in 1840, William had reached a plateau that few whites let alone blacks had ever reached. In the early 1840s his sons and daughters married mulattos from Charleston and came to live on the Ellison Plantation. His sons became slave owners with the help of their father. The slaves were from the Ellison family and were just passed down to the next generation. These slaves were not income producing slaves, but rather house servants. By 1860, Ellison increased his slave population from thirty-six in 1850 to sixty-three, an increase of seventy-five percent.

    That year, in the census he reported that his total worth was just over $61,000, which was very low for the property and personal slaves that he owned. The man who started out life as a slave achieved financial success. His wealth was 90 percent greater than his white neighbors in Sumter district. In the entire state, only five percent owned as much real estate as Ellison. His wealth was fifteen times greater than that of the state’s average for whites, and Ellison owned more than 99 percent of the South’s slaveholders. He never achieved a monopoly in Stateburg, but was the highest producing slave owner in the county. Without slaves Ellison could never gotten past the income of a tradesman; with the slaves he accomplished the security of no other.

    Although, a successful slave owner and cotton farmer, Ellison major source of income came from “slave breeding.” Throughout the South slave breeding was looked down on with disgust. He began slave breeding in 1840. Females were not productive workers in his factor or cotton fields, so he only kept a few women for breeders, and sold most of his females. He had the reputation of being a harsh master. His slaves were the worst fed and clothed. He maintained on his property a windowless building where he chained his problem slaves.

    His slaves were listed among the runaways because of his harsh treatment. Having started life out as a slave did not make him sensitive to their needs because he saw his slaves as no more than property.

    On one occasion Ellison hired the services of a slave catcher. According to an account by Robert N. Andrews, a white man who had purchased a small hotel in Stateburg in the 1820s hunted down one of his valuable slave in Belleville, Virginia. He stated: “I was paid $77.50 returning the slave, and $74.00 for expenses.”

    William Ellison died on December 5, 1861. According to his last will and testament his estate should be divided jointly by his free daughter and two surviving sons; he also bequeathed $500 to a daughter he had sold into slavery.

    During the Civil War the Ellison family actively participated and supported the Confederacy throughout the war. They converted nearly their entire plantation to the production of corn, fodder, bacon, corn shucks and cotton for the Confederate armies. They paid $5,000 in taxes during the war, and they also invested more than $9,000 in Confederate bonds, treasury notes and certificates in addition to the Confederate currency. At the end of the war all this was worthless and cost the family a great deal of wealth.

    On March 27, 1863 John Wilson Buckner, William Ellison’s oldest grandson, enlisted in the 1st South Carolina Artillery. Buckner served in the company of Captains P. P. Galliard and A. H. Boykin, local whites who knew that Buckner was Black was but overlooked this factor because of the Ellison family’s prestige and money his race status was changed to “honorary” white. Buckner was wounded in action on July 12, 1863. At his funeral in Stateburg in August, 1895, he was praised by his former Confederate officers as being a “faithful soldier.”

    WHITE SKIN BLACK MASK

    The majority of the colored masters were mulattoes and their slaves were overwhelmingly of black skin. There was strong division between the two classes based on color, class, status and a culture of whiteness. There was a color and cultural clash between the two groups. The mulatto community in Charleston separated themselves from the dark skinned people, and they banned dark skinned people from their social clubs and seldom married unmixed blacks.

    They created exclusionary societies such as the Brown Fellowship society. Membership was based on brown skin meaning the sons and daughters of slave masters. They formed schools and benevolent groups to provide mutual aid and operated a burial ground and society. Among its members were John W. Gordon, William T. Oliver, Edward P. and Lafayette F. Wall, Richard Dereef and Robert Houston.

    Richard Edward Dereef was one of the richest black men in Charleston. He had a Wharf at the end of Chapel Street, was in the wood business, and owned slaves and rental properties, most of which were located on the east side of Charleston. Richard Dereef would never have been accepted into Charleston’s elite mulatto society, but he claimed to be an Indian- and had money. For the most part the mulatto slave owner aligned themselves with the white ruling class and helped to preserve the system of slavery.
    Among black slave holders the free mulattoes owners were over represented, being the offspring of white planters and merchants. Many of their white fathers provided for them. Thomas Hanscome, a white planter of St. James and Goose Creek, provided for the mulatto children of Nancy Randale, a free black woman, with six slaves as well as stocks and bonds valued at $150,000. In 1823, the mulatto children of Henry Glencamp, the superintendent of the Sante Canal, and Jenny Wilson, a free black woman, inherited eighteen slaves as well as the plantation called Pine Hill in Stephens of Charleston District.

    Many white fathers accepted their black children as legitimate heirs. For example, the children of Michael Fowler, a white planter of Christ church Parish, and his black slave/wife named Sibb lived as man and wife and raised a family on his plantation. According to Calvin D. Wilson “there was a rich planter in Charleston named Fowler who took a woman of African descent and established her in his home…There was a daughter born, who was called Isabella; the planter insisted that she be called as miss Fowler. He expected his slaves to treat his mulatto children if though they were white. His children were so acculturated into the white elite slave holding class that they only associated with whites. In 1810, the estate of Michael Fowler was divided among his mulatto children: John Fowler, Jacob Fowler, Stanhope Fowler, Nelly Fowler Collins, Becky Fowler and Isabell Fowler Dereef. The Fowler failed to emancipate any of their slaves and regarded them as investment property. They held their slaves until the end of the Civil War.

    Many enslaved mulattoes like William Ellison started out as a slave. Another case is Anthony Weston, a de facto free black of Charleston City, was trained as a millwright. As the slave of Plowder Weston, he was able to hire himself out to several white planters as well as work for his master. In 1826, his master declared him freed. His skill as a millwright allowed him to accumulate a great deal of wealth and he began to invest in slaves. Technically being a slave himself, he purchased a large number of slaves in his wife name between 1834 and 1835, to purchase a total of 20 slaves, investing $8,950. He trained some of his slaves as mill wrights and they worked in his business. He became one of the wealthiest black persons in the city. By 1860, his estate was valued at $48,075 by city officials

    In 1822, Moses Brown, a colored barber, purchased an African American boy named Moses from Mary Warhaim for $300. He trained the boy in the art of barbering. By 1823, the boy was working in his shop on 5 Tradd Street as a barber. In 1829, Camilla Johnson, a colored pastry cook, purchased a mulatto woman named Charleston Todd from Joseph and Ann Wilkie for $375. According to a Charleston socialite, Camilla Johnson used her mulatto servant to work at several of the parties she was hired to cater.

    RICHARD HOLLOWAY SR.

    Richard Holloway Sr., a free person of color bought a slave named Charles Benford in order that the slave might enjoy his freedom. Yet at the same time he owned other slaves who were not treated so kindly. In 1834, he purchased a slave woman named Sarah and her two children, Annett and Edward, from Susan B. Robertson for $575. Within three years after the purchase, he apparently became dissatisfied with the slave family and sold them for $945. Even though Richard Holloway, Sr., allowed a trusted servant to enjoy-his freedom, he was still a slave owner for profit. He sold and purchased slaves as an investment.

    In 1851, Elizabeth Collinis Holloway, a woman of color, placed her servant Celia in the city jail after her slave had run away. In 1852, Holloway’s servant Peggy was confined in the workhouse for disciplinary reasons.

    In the Palmetto (rice areas) there were only seven large rice planters of African descent, and they were primarily related to white kin. One example of this is the Pendarvis family, which was one of the largest slave owning “colored” families to plant rice in the state during the 1730s. The mulatto children of Joseph Pendarvis, a white planter of Colleton County, and his African mistress Parthena, were given 1,009 acres of land near the Green Savanna as well as a plantation in Charleston Neck. Joseph Pendarvis gave to his children James, Brand, William, John, Thomas, Mary, and Elizabeth, land, money and slaves. They became one of the wealthiest and most prominent slaveholding families in South Carolina. James the first born received most of the property of his deceased father, and owned more than 100 slaves. By 1786, he owned 113 slaves and 3,250 acres of land. The 1790 census informs us that he owned 123 slaves. Many of the mulatto offspring of white planters became large plantation owners in their own right.

    For example, Margaret Mitchell Harris and her half brother Robert Michael Collins inherit money, plantation and slaves from their white father. In 1844, she bought Santee Plantation for 4,050, but made $7,635 from the harvest in 1849. She ran a profitable enterprise.

    SUMMARY

    The notion of a homogenous African American group united by a common African ethnicity and culture is a myth. Many scholars failed to recognize the diversity in language, culture, class and color among African Americans, and how those differences provided one group of African Americans with extraordinary opportunities for higher educational and trade skills when compared to the black population. Historically, there has always been great tension between the “mulatto” and black classes because of the association of “yellow” skin with high status and class within the black social apex. Slave masters exploited these tensions for their obvious benefits, keeping their mulatto children elevated over the African field worker, and African Americans have continue to perpetuated this system of privilege and discrimination based on light skin long after whites stop make any distinction between light and dark skinned blacks. The root to this disparity is the American plantation during the 17th and 18th century.

    The majority of black slave owners were members of the mulatto class, and in most cases were the sons and daughters of white slave masters. Many of the mulatto slave owners separated themselves from the masses of black people and attempted to establish a caste system based on color, wealth, and free status. According to Martin Delany, the colored community of Charleston City clung to the assumptions of the superiority of white blood and brown skin complexion.

    After slavery it was the children of the mulato class that was more willing to cross the color line and to bridge the gap between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks. Also, a large number of the “new” black leaders in the South came from this class/caste group. The sons and daughters of black slave masters were educated and resourceful. In the late 1860s, Frances Rollins, the daughter of William Rollins, a black slave owner of Charleston City, worked as a school teacher in Beaufort County. She was educated at the Institution for Colored Youth in Philadelphia and was one of four sisters who worked to uplift the newly freed in South Carolina. Later, she married William James Whipper, a state representative of South Carolina. Thaddeus Sasportas, the son of Joseph A. Sasportas, a mulatto slave owner, went to Orangeburg County to aid the ex-slaves and to work as a teacher, where he taught ex-slaves to read and write.

    Bibliography
    Franklin, John Hope, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1980.
    Johnson, Michael P. and James L. Roark. Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South. New York: W.W Norton and Company, 1984.
    Koger, Larry. Black Slave owners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina 1790-1860. North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers.
    Lewis, Ronald L. and James E. Newton, Eds. The Other Slaves: Mechanics, Artisans, and Craftsmen. Mass.: G. K. Hall and Co., 1978.
    Littlefield, Daniel C. Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. 74-80, 83-86.
    Raymond Logan and Irving Cohen, The American Negro. New York: Houghton and Mifflin, 1970.
    Mills, Gary B. The Forgotten People: Cane River’s Creoles of Color Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977.
    Phillips, Ulrich B. American Negro Slavers: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as determined by the Plantation Regime New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1918.
    Woodson, Carter G. Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the United States in 1830: Together with Absentee ownership of Slaves in the United States in New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985. 68-72, 84-85.
    Roark, James L. and Johnson, Michael P. Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1984
    A Defense of Southern Slavery and Other Pamphlets. New York: Greenwood Publishing Corp., 1969. 14-16
    Elkins, Stanley M. Slavery A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969. 165.
    Gatell, Frank Otto and Allen Weinstein, Eds. American Negro Slavery: A Modern Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. 136-141.
    Lewis, Ronald L. Coa1, Iron, and Slavery Industrial Slavery in Maryland and Virginia, 1715-1865. Westport, Conn.: Negro University Press, 1979. 91, 94
    McDougle, Ivan E. Slavery in Kentucky, 1792-1865. Westport, Conn.: Negro University Press,
    Rose, Willie Lee. Slavery and Freedom New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
    Smith, Julia Floyd. Slavery and Rice Culture in Low Country Georgia, 1750-1861. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1985. 70-71.
    Stampp, Kenneth M. The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. New York: Vintage Book, A Division of Random House, 1956.
    Penn University Prof Says Zimmerman Let Off Because God Is a ‘White Racist’
    Posted by Jim Hoft on Monday, July 15, 2013, 6:19 PM

  18. How can I locate information on my great-great grandmother who was born in Mississippi in 1848? Her name is Mary (last name unknown), and her race was referred to as mulatto.

    Thank you.




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