Friday, July 25, 2014

Local Evils

A couple of months back I posted on antebellum white Kentuckians' perceptions of free people of color. I recently read a scholarly article that included an extended quote from a newspaper article titled "Local Evils," which ran in the Louisville Public Advertiser in 1835.  This excerpt corroborated much of the information shared in my aforementioned post that focused largely on examples the late antebellum period. The quote reads:

"We are overrun with free negroes. In certain parts of our town throngs of them may be seen at any time - and most of them have no ostensible means of obtaining a living. They lounge about through the day, and most subsist by stealing, or receiving stolen articles from slaves at night. Frequently, they are so bold as to occupy the side-walks in groups, and compel passengers to turn out and walk round them. Their impudence naturally attracts the attention of slaves, and necessarily becomes contagious. In addition to this, free negroes are teaching night schools. Slaves are their pupils and, to the extent of their tuition fees, are induced, in most instances, to rob their masters or employers."

The mention of free people of color occupying the city's sidewalks and being impudent provide a glimpse into why whites detested their presence. Free blacks occupied in a "limbo." They were black and thus view as inferior, but they were legally free, so they could not be ordered like a slave could be. Free people of color disrupted the neatly ordered society that white Kentuckians wish to continue. As their numbers continued to grow during the antebellum period, whites looked more and more for ways to curtail their freedoms and limit their liberty.

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