Antebellum Free Persons of Color in Postbellum Louisiana

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Loren L. Schweninger, Emeritus Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: During the first fifteen years after the Civil War the landholdings of former free persons of color in Louisiana virtually disappeared. While historians have long shown an interest in the economic activities of Louisiana's free people of color during the prewar era, they have been less concerned with the fate of this group during the postwar period. Nor have they compared this decline to the changes in black wealth-holding patterns in other Southern states. This is perhaps understandable, since tracing a small group of fewer than 4,000 families following the emancipation of more than 330,000 slaves presents unique problems. Yet in some ways an analysis of the difficulties they confronted after the Civil War shows more clearly their unique and privileged prewar status than does an examination of the antebellum period. This essay seeks to examine the remarkable economic ascent of Louisiana's free people of color, the problems they confronted before and during the war, and their precipitous decline during the postwar era. It does so by focusing on property ownership, a key variable to understanding relative economic condition, and by comparing the wealth holdings of free blacks and former free blacks with whites. It also attempts to unravel the complex social and cultural changes which occurred as a result of emancipation and connect them with the economic changes which took place.

Additional Information

Louisiana History 30 (Fall 1989):345-64
Language: English
Date: 1989
Louisiana, Free people of color

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