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THE FREE NEGRO IN VIRGINIA
1619 - 1865

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By John Henderson Russell

A DISSERTATION
Submitted to the Board of University Studies
of The Johns Hopkins University in Conformity
with the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
1913

Baltimore
1913

CHAPTER IV.
pp. 123 - 177

THE SOCIAL STATUS OF THE FREE NEGRO

     The three principal elements in the population of Virginia to which the free negro had to adjust himself were the whites, the native Indians, and the negro slaves.  A discussion of the social relations of the free negro class with each of these three other elements of the population of the State in the order named may well occupy a place of first consideration in this chapter.
     If prejudices did not exist in the minds of the white inhabitants of Virginia against persons of the black race before the coming of the negro, they were not long in springing up after the two races met on Virginia soil.  From the very first mention by whites of Africans in Virginia special care was taken, in writing or in speaking of them, to designate their race or color.  In the earliest records of the courts and the parishes they were carefully distinguished from other persons by such words and phrases as "negroes," "negro servants," and "a negro belonging to" such a one.  As early as 1630 the conduct of a white man who had violated a rule of strict separation of the white and black races was denounced as an "abuse to the dishonor of God and shame of Christians," and in atonement for such conduct the white man received a sound whipping and was required to make a public apology.1  In the case of a similar violation of decency and standards of race purity in 1640 the guilty white man was compelled to "do penance" in the church, and the negro woman was whipped.2  So prominent and uncouth were the physiological characteristics and so

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1. Hening, vol. i, p. 146
2. Ibid., vol. i, p. 552

[Pg. 124]
rude were the manners of the African emigrants that before the end of the seventeenth century many of the white colonists came to regard them as not of the human kind.3
     The prejudice against the negro was not the result of his servile station; for in that respect he was on a par with a large part of the white population.  Freedom, therefore, was not sufficient to make a negro servant or a negro slave the social equal of the whites.  By the middle of the seventeenth century there were negroes who were free from all forms of legal servitude or slavery, but they were not absorbed into the mass of free population.  Their color adhered to them in freedom as in servitude, and the indelible marks and characteristics of their race remained unchanged.4  In 1668 the law-making body of the colony gave unmistakable sanction to the exclusion of the free negroes of social equality in a declaration that "negro women set free, . . . although permitted to enjoy their freedom, yet out not in all respects to be admitted to full fruition of the exemptions and impunities of the English." 5
     Yet, in spite of strong racial antipathies, there were some illicit relations between shameless white persons and negroes, by reason of which it was deemed necessary as early as 1662 to enact legislation concerning the status of mulatto children.  In 1691 a law prescribed for "any white woman marrying a negro or mulatto, bond or free," the extreme penalty of perpetual banishment.6  The strength of public sentiment was soon tested in the matter of enforcing this law in the case of Ann Wall, an English woman, who was arraigned in the county court of Elizabeth City on the charge of "keeping company with a negro under pretense of marriage."7  Upon conviction, she and two of her mulatto chil-

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3. M. Godwynnn, Negro's and Indian's Advocate, suing for their admission into the Church, p. 23 et seq.
4. Compare G. Bancroft, History of the United States, ed. 1843, vol. iii, p. 410
5. Hening, vol. ii, p. 267
6. Ibid., vol. iii, p. 87
7. MS. Court Records of Elizabeth City County, 1684 - 1699, p. 27, in Virginia State Library.  In 1737 a negro who attempted to assault a white girl was compelled to stand in a pillory for an hour, was "pelted by the populace, and afterwards smartly whipped:  (Virginia Ga
zette, August 19-26, 1737; quoted in Virginia Magazine of History, vol. xi, p. 424).

[Pg. 125]
dren were bound for terms of service to a man living in Norfolk County, and a court order was recorded to the effect that in case she ever returned to Elizabeth City County she should be banished to the Barbadoes.8  Whether the "abominable mixture or spurious issue," as the mulatto was called, was of slave or free negro parentage, it was equally detested by respectable white persons.
     In the



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