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Where Free Blacks Lived

South Carolina SC African-Americans Free Blacks in Charleston Where Free Blacks Lived

Both free blacks and slaves attempted to isolate themselves from the white community - to live beyond white scrutiny. One such place was Clifford's Alley, which ran west from King between Queen and Clifford streets. In 1861, 65 slaves and one white lived on this street, all in wooden houses. Other areas where slaves enjoyed similar freedom was on Charleston's Neck. In 1860, almost two-thirds of Charleston's free persons of color lived in the upper wards on the Neck. Occupation in this area was spurred by the low rents, inexpensive lots within the reach of many free blacks, and the ability to build wood frame houses, rather than more expensive brick structures required by the City.

In 1856 African-American housing in the Neck came to the attention of the Grand Jury because:
In these negro rows as many as fifty to one hundred negroes, or persons of color, are sometimes residing, shut out from the public street by a gate, all the buildings having but one common yard, and not a single white person on the premises. The impolicy of allowing so many persons of color to live together without the presence of a responsible white person, is not the only objection against these places for the neighborhoods of these rows are constantly disturbed by the fights, quarrels, and the turbulence of the inmates. The law of the State declares the assemblage of more than seven male negroes, without the presence of a responsible white man, to be an unlawful gathering; but in these rows from twenty to fifty male slaves live together in one house, with only board partitions separating the tenements from each other, and with a common yard to all the tenements.
Researchers have found that the most common streets for free persons of color to live on were Nassau, Henrietta, America, and Line streets. Other concentrations were found at Thompsons Court, Hagermans Court, and South Street. Numerous free blacks also lived on Elizabeth, Chapel, Mary, and Reid streets. While there are dense concentrations, specially along Coming Street north of Calhoun and in [the] area east of Meeting and north of Calhoun, there were relatively few free persons of color living south of Calhoun.


A Demographic Overview
Before the Civil War
Earning A Living as a Free Black
Where Free Blacks Lived
Free Blacks During the Civil War
Exploring Free Persons of Color
More Information
The Chicora Foundation


Understanding Slavery
Free Blacks in Charleston
Preserving Black Cemeteries
Mitchelville Experiment
Quash Stevens Letters