Free People of Color: Inside the African American Community
Free People of Color is a path-breaking historical inquiry into the forces that unified and divided free African Americans in the pre-Civil War North ... Show synopsis Free People of Color is a path-breaking historical inquiry into the forces that unified and divided free African Americans in the pre-Civil War North, as they dealt with human issues vastly complicated by the racist character of American society. James Oliver Horton explores the social and psychological interior of free African American communities and reveals the diversity and nuances of free black society in such northern cities as Boston, Buffalo, and Washington, D.C. While examining the heated debates within these communities over gender roles, skin color, national identity, leadership styles, and politics, he argues for a complex and pluralistic view of free black society - where disagreement did not preclude cooperation toward common goals, such as ending slavery, obtaining full citizenship, and securing educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans. Horton also discusses relations between blacks and the European immigrants with whom they shared living space and often competed for employment. He finds the association between African Americans and Germans to have been relatively harmonious, particularly in contrast to the violence and acrimony that marked contact between blacks and Irish immigrants. "Black people, " observes Horton, "like all Americans, develop communities which reflect the national, regional, and local issues that affect their well-being." The essays in Free People of Color document the complexity of antebellum African American communities and portray their inhabitants as a multifaceted people whose lives were both complicated by restrictive forces and unified by common goals.