Charleston SC Free Blacks – A Demographic Overview

South Carolina SC African-Americans Free Blacks in Charleston A Demographic Overview

Demographic Overview of Free Blacks in Charleston, SC

Although Charleston before 1864 is sometimes characterized by the dichotomy between black and white – free and slave – there were from very early times "free persons of color" or free blacks.

The first census, in 1790, found 8,089 white persons, 7,684 slaves, and 586 free blacks in Charleston. This tells us that very early in Charleston's history free blacks constituted nearly 3.6% of the city's population. By 1861 free blacks comprised 7.8% of Charleston's population. Although these 3,441 persons formed a small community by Northern standards, of the ten largest Southern cities, only Baltimore, New Orleans, and Washington contained larger free black communities prior to the Civil War.

Although there were free blacks in the countryside, the economic and social opportunities were slim in comparison to those presented by the cities. That's why in 1850, about 40% of all free persons of color in South Carolina lived in Charleston and 89% of all free blacks in Charleston County lived in the city!

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