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Rosser H. Taylor (Rosser Howard), b. 1891
The Free Negro in North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University, 1920.


Rosser Howard Taylor wrote The Free Negro in North Carolina as a master's thesis at the University of North Carolina and published it as part of the James Sprunt Historical Publications series in 1920. The paper examines North Carolina's treatment of free African Americans from the colonial period through emancipation.

Taylor briefly addresses how a slave might have acquired freedom before the Civil War and discusses the evolution of laws related to slavery and free blacks, especially as they compare to similar laws in Virginia. He also outlines the anti-slavery efforts of the Quakers and other organizations across the state. Taylor describes key judicial decisions, such as the 1827 case that limited Quaker abolition efforts in the state.

Beginning with British colonial rule, Taylor charts changes in free African American political rights, such as voting privileges; civil rights, such as those governing marriage and property; and social status, as illustrated through anecdotes and intra-racial discrimination trends. He again compares North Carolina with Virginia, whose laws limited even dog ownership among African Americans. He also includes tabular data charting the increase in free blacks throughout North Carolina's history and census data on the number of free blacks in each North Carolina county in 1860. Taylor ends his thesis with profiles of notable African Americans, including Lunsford Lane, an abolitionist lecturer; John Chavis, a minister and educator; and John C. Stanley, a barber turned plantation owner.

Monique Prince

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