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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

For much more detail on this topic, follow the link below.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial