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The best way to answer this question is to look at the lives of free blacks. They tended to live in urban areas, as opposed to plantation slaves. While most were laborers, many were skilled craftsmen, especially in maritime cities. While they were allowed to own property, they were not allowed to vote in most states, and indeed were not considered citizens in any of the southern states. Free blacks suffered discrimination in other ways, as well. Many states had laws allowing unemployed blacks to be sold back into slavery, and others required identification to prove one's status. In some southern states, free blacks, like plantation slaves, were not allowed to move freely from one town to another. They were also subjected to harsh physical punishments, often akin to those suffered by slaves, that whites did not have to endure. In short, while free blacks had opportunities no plantation slave had, they also experienced discrimination, poverty, and inequality.
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