SO LET’S START WITH SLAVERY
I think it is safe to say that most people know white people did not start slavery. Slavery is an ancient institution, as old as the human race. I suspect that every ethnic group on the planet has, at one time or another, been enslaved or owned slaves.
Some slaveholders were black, or had some black ancestry. In 1830 there were 3,775 such slaveholders in the South who owned 12,760 slaves, with 80% of them located in Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. There were economic differences between free blacks of the Upper South and Deep South, with the latter fewer in number, but wealthier, and typically of mixed race. Half of the black slaveholders lived in cities, rather than the countryside, with most in New Orleans and Charleston. Especially New Orleans had a large, relatively wealthy free black population (gens de couleur) composed of people of mixed race, who had become a third class-between whites and enslaved blacks-under French and Spanish rule. Relatively few slaveholders were “substantial planters.” Of those who were, most were of mixed race, often endowed by white fathers with some property and social capital. For example, a black man, Andrew Durnford of New Orleans, was listed as owning seventy-seven slaves. According to Rachel Kranz: "Durnford was known as a stern master who worked his slaves hard and punished them often, in his efforts to make his Louisiana sugar plantation a success.”
The historian James Oakes in 1982 notes that, “The evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of black slaveholders were free men who purchased members of their families or who acted out of benevolence.” After 1810 southern states made it increasingly difficult for any slaveholders to free slaves. Often the purchasers of family members were left with no choice but to maintain, on paper, the owner-slave relationship. In the 1850s “there were increasing efforts to restrict the right to hold bondsmen, on the grounds that slaves should be kept ‘as far as possible under the control of white men only.”
In his 1985 statewide study of black slaveholders in South Carolina, Larry Koger challenged the benevolent view. He found that the majority of black slaveholders appeared to hold slaves as a commercial decision. For instance, he noted that in 1850 more than 80% of black slaveholders were of mixed race, but nearly 90% of their slaves were classified as black. He also noted that a number of small artisans in Charleston held slaves to help with their businesses.