Free People of Color: Inside the African American Community

Free People of Color: Inside the African American Community

by James Oliver Horton
     
 

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… See more details below

Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Noting that successive waves of scholarship have overemphasized both black divisiveness and black unity, Horton, co-author of Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in an Antebellum City, makes a rather dry argument for a more nuanced view as he explores pre-Civil War black society in cities like Boston, Buffalo and Washington, D.C. As opposed to scholars who emphasize the differences between the lives of free blacks and slaves, Horton notes that the shared foundation of black life impelled free blacks to absorb and protect migrants and to work for abolition. Considering gender roles, Horton notes that as black men tried to assert their manhood, the conventions they adopted often marginalized women, and that variations in skin color led to stratification that persists today. The use of the term ``African'' in organizational names while individuals took European names was a hint of ``double consciousness,'' the author states. In a final section, he shows how black relations with German immigrants were more peaceful than their better-known bitter relations with Irish immigrants. Illustrations not seen by PW. (May)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Horton, a Smithsonian director and a professor (history and American civilization, George Washington Univ.), presents a powerful study of the northern African American communities of the United States during the mid-19th century. His research derives from his inquiries and several well-revised and thoroughly researched studies cited in this exceptional resource. The study probes the complexities of some weighty issues still plaguing black society today: shades of color; violence, protest, and identity of black manhood; race, occupations, and ethnicity; and economic and social relationships. It is a progress report, a preview of continued investigation, judging from its content and notes. Highly recommended for the researcher, historian, and sociologist.-- Gayle Leach-Bethea, MHC Correctional Facility Lib., Jessup, Md.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560982036
Publisher:
Smithsonian Institution Press
Publication date:
04/01/1993
Pages:
288

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