Free Black Americans Before the Civil War

Even though slavery ended in the 1860s, free Black Americans made up 10% of the United States Black population. While the rest of the population was made up of slaves, those who escaped quickly learned that freedom didn’t mean access.

As the United States expanded, many now western states passed rules and regulations that made it difficult for Black citizens to successfully enter society. Ultimately, Black people opted to stay in the south, close to family, and in a better economic condition. Despite countless efforts to rob Black people of their rights, freed Black leaders made sure Black people were supported in their transition from slavery to freedom.

In this episode of Black History In Two Minutes or So hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — with additional commentary from Vincent Brown of Harvard University and author Kate Clifford Larson — we learn about the often under told story of the free Black American.

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Archival Materials Courtesy of:
• Alamy Images
• Getty Images
• Library of Congress

Additional Archival Courtesy of:
• The Liberator
• Virginia State University Special Collections and Archives

Executive Producers:
• Robert F. Smith
• Henry Louis Gates Jr.
• Dyllan McGee
• Deon Taylor

Senior Producer:
• William Ventura

Series Producers:
• Chinisha Scott
• William Ventura

Executive in Charge of Production:
• Robert L. Yacyshyn

Post Production Supervisor:
• Veronica Leib

Post Production Coordinator:
• Katherine Swiatek

Written By:
• Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Additional Writing:
• Kevin Burke
• Kelsi Lindus
• Chinisha Scott
• William Ventura

• Margaret Metzger
• Anne Yao

• Kevin Burke

Archival Producer:
• Megan Graham

• Zoë Smith

Assistant Editors:
• Patrice Bowman
• Nicholas Mastrangelo

Director of Photography:
• Nikki Bramley
• Nausheen Dadabhoy
• Stephen McCarthy

Graphic Design:
• Anthony Kraus

Special Thanks:
• Daina Ramey Berry
• Sam Hartley
• Elyssa Hess
• Stacey Holman
• Hasan Jeffries
• Peniel Joseph
• Imani Perry

Music By:
• Oovra Music

Be Woke presents is brought to you by Robert F. Smith and Deon Taylor.

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