What was life like for free blacks in Antebellum America?

The African American people faced discrimination and hardships during the Antebellum period. Free blacks had few rights and privileges that were any better than enslaved people due to legal segregation and the lack of adequate education. In 1793, The Fugitive Slave Law was passed. It allowed slave owners to retrieve their fugitive slaves from anywhere in America.

Slave owners were allowed to kidnap African Americans and they had no legal rights to fight back. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Laws reinforced this fear in blacks, and restored the legal force against them. Those found helping a runaway could face charges too. Freed African Americans were not allowed to vote. This further divided free blacks and whites in America.

Freed blacks in the north were assumed to be better off, but they were discriminated against as much as blacks in the lower and upper south. The north was partially free. Education was seen as luxury to the blacks; both free and enslaved.

By 1820 and 1860, schools were racially segregated leaving many African American children to be taught in rundown, overcrowded, rooms of churches. They were not allowed to attend school with white children. Lack of funding and poorly paid teachers sometimes left the African American student without motivated educators. By the 1830’s, most northern African Americans were in favor of integrated public education.

Source: What was life like for free blacks in Antebellum America?
Copyright: J. Brown, K. Gant, F. Sloss

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