Some people mistakenly think that only Black Americans were slaves, and that all Whites were free. In fact, tens of thousands of White folks were slaves. Two points explain this odd fact. First, Whiteness back then was based on appearance. If you looked White and were accepted as White, then you were White, even if you were a slave. The modern-day notion that you could be Black due to invisible ancestry had not yet been invented. Second, for half the span of U.S. history there was no legal connection between continent of ancestry and slave status. This changed in 1802.
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Frank W. Sweet is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), an analysis of the nearly 300 appealed cases that determined Americans’ “racial” identity over the centuries. It is the most thorough study of the legal history of this topic yet published. He was accepted to Ph.D. candidacy in history with a minor in molecular anthropology at the University of Florida in 2003 and has completed all but his dissertation defense. He earned an M.A. in History from American Military University in 2001. He is also the author of several state park historical booklets and published historical essays. He was a member of the editorial board of the magazine Interracial Voice, and is a regular lecturer and panelist at historical and genealogical conferences. To send email, click here.
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