Wealthy Free Women of Color in Charleston, South Carolina During Slavery
This dissertation focuses on the lives and experiences of a small group of affluent free mulatto women in antebellum Charleston, South Carolina. Unlike their enslaved sisters we know very little about their community and the place they occupied in it. To comprehend the everyday world wealthy free women of color inhabited I begin by examining the origins of the wealthy free colored community in Charleston. I then investigate individual case studies of five wealthy free mulatto and black women and how their varying choices, made under differing degrees of societal duress, molded and formed their lives. Biographical sketches of Rachel and Martha Inglis, Nancy Randall, Hagar Richardson and Margaret Bettingall consider the different options each woman experienced under the same social, economic and racial framework. All five women (whose stories are told here for the first time) dealt with enslavement from either a personal perspective as slaves themselves, or as a recent memory in recalling a mother or grandmother's bondage. Their stories relate how the lives of wealthy free women of color were paradoxical and how they often dealt with triumph and tragedy in the same instance.
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