A free person of color in the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, is a person of full or partial African descent who was not enslaved. In the United States, such persons were referred to as "free Negroes," though many were of mixed race . Free people of color was especially a term used in New Orleans and the former Louisiana Territory, where a substantial third class of primarily mixed-race, free people developed. There were also free people of color in Caribbean and Latin American slave societies. These colonial societies classified mixed-race people in a variety of ways, generally related to appearance and to the proportion of African ancestry. History
Free people of color, or gens de couleur libre, played an important role in the history of New Orleans and the southern part of the state, former Louisiana Territory. When French settlers and traders first arrived in the colony, the men took Native American women as their concubines or common-law wives; and when African slaves were imported to the colony, they took African women as wives. As the colony grew and more white women arrived from France and Germany, some French men or ethnic French Creoles still took mixed-race women as mistresses or placées before they officially married. In the period of French and Spanish rule, the free people of color had developed formal arrangements for placées, which the young women's mothers negotiated, often to include a kind of dowry or property transfer to the young women, freedom for them and their children, and education for the children. The French Creole men often paid for education of their "natural" mixed-race children from these relationships, especially if they were sons. Free people of color developed as a separate class between the colonial French and Spanish and the enslaved black African workers. They often achieved education and some measure of wealth; they spoke French and practiced Catholicism, although there was also development of...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document