Describe the nature of the lives of free African Americans before the Civil War.  

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lives of free blacks differed to some degree based on where they lived, what color they were, and how rich they were.

In general, free blacks were second class citizens at best.  They were only allowed to vote in five states, all in the North.  They could not serve on juries or testify against white people.  They, unlike whites, could be sold into slavery if they were found guilty of not having a job.

Some free blacks made very good lives for themselves, at least economically speaking.  It is even the case that about 2% of all free African Americans owned slaves.  There are examples of free blacks in the South owning up to 60 slaves.  It was, of course, very rare for a free black to get to this level of wealth.

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