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Posted August 22, 2013
..information, yet there were no names, locations or descriptions with cover photographs, despite facts included about free Black life and laws. It was not comprehensive enough about those other than Mr. Day the cabinet maker that were also well-known in important N.C. areas.
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Posted June 1, 2013
America’s Forgotten Caste is an interesting read for anyone curious about the ill-defined world that existed between slavery and freedom in America. Free blacks, who were neither free nor necessarily black, lived in such a world where they fought off relentless efforts by whites to push them into the well-defined parameters of the enslaved.
Despite a designation of “free,” the small population of free blacks lived under onerous restrictive laws that limited their mobility and their civil rights. Colonial and state laws forbade literacy, religious freedom, and labor competition with whites. Free blacks were constricted in where they could live, who they could marry, legal protection by the courts, and interracial mingling of any nature. They formed America’s social caste, denied citizenship and entry into white society, the precursor of the nation’s 20th century segregation laws.
Numerous free blacks pushed back against the inequitable caste system, and we meet many of the successful ones in this book. John Day became a noted missionary and supreme court justice in Liberia; his brother Thomas became one of the largest furniture makers in North Carolina. Other free blacks were successful as artisans, planters, ship owners and operators, and entrepreneurs of every description. Some of these stories and mini-biographies read like a Horatio Alger novel.
America’s Forgotten Caste, while footnoted for the student, is an intriguing and easy read for anyone interested in a dynamic chapter of the nation’s history and the origins of America’s racial divide.
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