The reading assigned this week entitled Northern Free Blacks Occupational Patterns and Housing Patterns illustrated the harsh treatment that free African Americans endured during the nineteenth century. Although African Americans were considered to be free, they remained socially stagnant. Freedom did not result in having equal rights to the superior race. In fact, African Americans had little to no rights. They faced occupational and residential limitations that hindered them from really being liberated.
Northern Free Blacks Occupational Patterns and Housing Patterns provided its readers with several examples of occupational limitations. One of them being a legislation prohibited free African Americans to obtain a liquor license. Because of this, African Americans were unable to open grocery stores. Southern governments feared that free African Americans wold give gin to African American slaves and that would result in rising up against their masters. One could only imagine how that could put a dent in African American employment. In 1837 residents of Baltimore petitioned for a legislation to prevent African Americans from participating in trades. Unfortunately, for them, they were denied. But when the president of the Mechanical Association of Cincinnati accepted an African American apprentice, he was tried before the society.
The article also shared that landlords during the nineteenth century were not optimistic about having African Americans as tenants. They preferred to rent to whites. In 1830, an African American family tried to move to a white community in Boston. Residents were furious nd threatened to destroy the house. African Americans were simply not accepted in society. The Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery 1838 directory gathered that of the 612 African Americans that were listed, 133 of them loved in alleys, courts, and rear building. Of the ones who weren’t forced to live in alleys, they lived in overcrowded houses.
African American may have been free according to the law, but they were still treated unjust and still remained in a captive environment. They were not allowed to progress in society. It was made sure that the superior race had no competitors when searching for a job and a home.
1. Imagine you were a free black person during the nineteenth century in the city of Louisville, how else would you attempt to make a living? Do you think rising above the occupational limitations presented were possible back then?
2. How do you feel about the term “free blacks”? Were they really free? Do you think the treatment that free blacks endured contradicts the term “free blacks”?
3. Explain why landlords during that time period refuse to accept black tenants?