Free People of Color: the Quiz Answers

16 April 2007

Today's post is the answers to the quiz. No one responded to the original quiz, and although I'm a bit disappointed, I really didn't expect anyone to.

The purpose of the quiz was NOT to show how much or little a person knows, but really to point on the discrepancies between our general knowledge of free Blacks in the South and the truth. I've given this quiz about 5 times to groups and of all the times I&apost;ve given it, maybe only 3 or 4 got more than 50% correct

Section 1: Population

  1. In 1790, how many free people of color were there in the South compared to the North?
    A. 361 in the South vs 2,031 in the North
    B. 3,619 in the South vs 2,031 in the North
    C. 36,196 in the South vs 20,315 in the North
    D. None of the above

    Answer: C. Out of a total free “colored” population of 59,511 in the entire US in the 1790 census, 36,196 lived in the South versus 20,315 in the North. Surprising, huh?? Remember, tax paying Native Americans were included in this number and quite a few free Blacks were part Native American.
  2. Which state had the largest population of free people of color in 1790 and the second largest in 1850?
    A. Virginia     B. North Carolina     C. Maryland     D. New York

    Answer: A. In 1790, Virginia had the largest population with Maryland trailing behind at 2nd and North Carolina at 3rd, all Southern states. Maryland was a border state and depending on what a person believes, some consider it Northern while others consider it Southern. It was a slave-holding state through the 1860 census.
  3. The free people of color population of the entire state of NC in 1790 accounted for what percentage of the population?
    A. 54%     B. 5%     C. 27%     D. 13%

    Answer: D. 4,975 free persons of color resided in NC in 1790, accounting for 13% of the entire state's population.
  4. In the 1850 census, North Carolina again ranked 3rd in the highest population of free people of color. Virginia was 1st, Maryland was 2nd. What was the population of free people of color in NC during the 1850 census?
    A. 5,362     B. 13,035     C. 75,003     D. 30,463

    Answer: D. The 1850 census of North Carolina enumerated 30,463 free people of color, the majority which lived in Halifax County

The most interesting thing to me about looking at the populations, our society today is led to believe that the majority of the free Blacks before the Civil War lived in the North, but the census shows that from 1790-1860, the South always had more. Virginia and Maryland switched back and forth between positions 1 and 2, and then North Carolina was usually 3rd and as low as 6. In North Carolina, the largest majority of free Blacks lived in the Northern Piedmont section, especially around Granville and Halifax Counties. It is interesting to note that the majority were not freed in NC, but in VA and a large portion came from Mecklenburg Co., VA

Section 2: Laws

  • True or False: North Carolina required all free Blacks to register statewide.

    Answer: False! Although most Southern states required free Blacks to register, NC only required it for 4 towns: Washington, Wilmington, Edenton, and Fayetteville. The law came about because these 4 towns were situated on a major water way and many slaves tried to escape by boat by pretending they were free. The law was in place to prevent this from happening.
  • True or False: Free Blacks could always travel freely in and out of the state.

    Answer: False! Manumission laws in NC required the freed slave to leave the state within 6 months. In 1723, a law was passed that made it illegal for a freed slave to return or face being sold back into slavery for 7 more years. Another law passed in the early 1800's forbade free Blacks from other states from entering NC.
  • True or False: Free Blacks could always own slaves in NC.

    Answer: False! Up until 1861, it was actually true, there were no restrictions on free Blacks from owning any property. It wasn't until the dawn of the Civil War that laws changed. In 1861, not only was it illegal for free Blacks from owning slaves, they could no longer own guns as well, which left them defenseless against attacks by white neighbors and soldiers during the war.
  • True or False: North Carolina's courts always followed the letter of the law when it came to free Blacks.

    Answer: False! This may be very surprising to some, but they were very lenient on following the laws…in favor of the free Blacks! Many court cases exist that are in complete contradiction with the laws of the day.

At the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, almost every county has a section of records entitled Slave Records or Slave and Free Persons of Color Records where there are numerous records on free Blacks. Also, many records can be found in numerous court documents. A great place to get started with your research at the NC State Archives is: Guide to County Records at the State Archives

These are surnames currently in my database that I'm actively working on. If you have free Blacks in antebellum NC, whether they are listed below or not, please let me know, I would like to communicate with you about your line to further your and my research:

This list of names is always growing and I'll try to remember and post new names I've discovered.


Submit comments Please note that all comments are moderated.

Anonymous said on April 17, 2007 at 3:09 PM
Hey Erin,

Those answers to the quiz were very enlighting, thanks for the "real" history lesson. I do not at this time have any Free Blacks in my family tree, but I do have several of the names mentioned in your post... and I do know many of them had slaves, not sure if they freed them Until they had NO choice... It is still shocking to me to find those tidbits in Wills and things cause I am from a different time then they are. Seems every generation has something that gives it a "black eye" ...guess we will be know for our polluting of the enviroment and BLOGS :) Well just wanted to stop by and check up on your Blog pages. Have a great day everyone.

Brazz said on July 18, 2007 at 1:42 PM

I enjoyed viewing your blog. I have done extensive research on several Free Black families in my famly tree: Scotts, Manleys, Silvers. Would be more than willing to share notes.

Anonymous said on September 16, 2007 at 3:18 PM

My husband & I took your quiz and we tied! We are looking for information on an Aaron Pratcher living in Granville around 1800's. We know he was a free man of color born around 1788 - also a carpenter and preacher and was a delegate from Granville at the 1866 Freedman's Convention...Can you help us?

Erin said on September 24, 2007 at 8:41 PM
Brazz, I can't seem to contact you. Please send me an email or post your address please :)

Erin Bradford said on September 24, 2007 at 8:45 PM
Hi EL, I got your email and have responded to you there :)

Angie Sandro said on December 30, 2007 at 1:13 AM
Hello Erin,
Wow, I've just spent about ten hours updating my family tree in, and needed to break away because I was "stuck". Luckily I happened to find your blog. I have been researching my family tree and with the help of Paul Heinegg's book, I was able to trace my family to Kate Anderson's daughter Hester Artis, by way of John, Archibald, Joseph to Evaline Artis. She married Archie Roberts. This is where I have gotten stuck. They were all living in Linton, Vigo, Indiana in 1850. Archie appears to be related to the Roberts family from North Carolina; however, I have been unable to find his parents. Thanks to you I have a bunch of new sources to look into. Please, feel free to check out my family history blog. if you have any advice I would be really greatful to have it. Thanks so much for all your work.

Anonymous said on December 26, 2008 at 2:05 PM
Erin, my name is judith roberts. I am very interested in getting in touch with angie sandro. I feel that we are distant relatives. I have traced mu family history back to 1747 in north carolina and we share some of the same roots. Please forward this to her so that she can get in touch with me at at judith.roberts85 (at) thanks, judith

BigRho said on January 3, 2009 at 1:07 PM
Hi Erin,

I stumbled onto your blog and find it very interesting. I too am interested in researching FPOC in North Carolina, specifically Halifax and Northampton Counties. My lineage includes free Manley (Manly) and Bowser in Halifax County, North Carolina.

I would love to communicate with you further.

choanoke said on January 15, 2009 at 12:40 PM
Hi Erin,

I love your Blog, It offers exciting info to assist researcers in tracing their ancestry. I live in Atlanta GA now but, my roots are deep in Southeastern Virgina, Mechlenburg,Brunswich,Greenville Surry, Franklin Counties. Also, rooted in Northeastern North Carolina, basically just across VA state line specifically Northampton County, Bertie, Herford,Gates, Halifax, Warren, And Orange,Alamance,Causwell Co in the piedmont section of NC. Myself and a cousin are vigorious searching for FPOC family, Descendants of the Scotts,Manleys, Roberts,Harveys,Waldens,Artis,JonesHawkins, Guys,Jacobs, Parks, Ashe, Josey,familes originating out a forementioned east coast areas migrating to mid-west territories of Indiana, Ohio, Illinios, and Michgan in early 1830, 1840 , 1850 ,1860 from the aforementioned area of NC & VA.



Anonymous said on February 28, 2009 at 11:26 PM
I think this web site is great! I found this for a friend: We believe this is his great great grandafather Albert Hockaday. Albert married Betsey/ Elizabeth Gee. I hope this helps in some way.

Anonymous said on March 2, 2009 at 4:55 PM
Hi Erin,

I would like to communicate w/ you further or the persons commenting on your Blog who are researching some of my Ancestors surnames from Northampton County, North Carolina and surrounding neighboring Counties near and across the Virginia state line. I am not sure how to pursue this quest of Communicating w/some of your bloggers in pursuit of sharing Knowledge concerning the Genealogy trace of my/our MANLEY(Manly),GUY,WALDEN,SCOTT,JONES, FLOOD,HARVEY,ARTIS Ancestors who settled the aforemention regions of SE Virginia and NE NC in the 1700's and 1800's and some who left in 1830's to resettle in Ohio and Indiana and maybe Michigan, Illinois. I aslo attended NC State U and NCCU. I graduated from NCCU in early 1980's. So, How do we share ? If at all possible. I have traced the "Walden" Bloodline back to 1687 generation by generation with names, birth dates, death certificates,Civil war records etc.,. I am experiencing a degree of difficulty tracing the SCOTT, HARVEY, MANLEY, FLOOD, CANADA, Jones,GUY,SYKES Ancestors back further than 1800's. If anyone can assist via ERIN'S Blogg please do so if it is POSSIBLE OR permitted.

Anonymous said on December 29, 2009 at 10:28 PM
I have FPOC in my family listed in the 1850 and 1860 Lenoir County Census. Caroline Lucas, (my 3rd Great Grandmother) her daughters Eunice and Gatsy, and Son Thomas (my 2nd Great Grandfather). Their names are spelled Locus on one Census, and Locust on another. But when Thomas entered the Civil War as a Union Soldier, his name was listed as Lucas. I am having a problem going back further. During this period they appear to be the only FPOC in Lenoir County. Previous to that I see a Nathan Lucas and an Isham Lucas, but I can not make the Connection, maybe you can help.

GiGi Best

Chris said on July 9, 2013 at 11:08 AM
Have you run across the Hill family in your research ? My family descended from apparently a very large group of Hills who seemed to be free throughout the NC/Va border. Mine is concentrated in Surry and began appearing there in 1810 as FPOC. Many of the children were indentured and they are tied in with a few families of known Indian families, but they are missing from all of the large databases for Free People of Color. They seem to outnumbver many of the core families as well. They are all over Wythe, Patrick, Henry and Grayson Va. and then Surry, Stokes, Rockingham, etc........ NC