American Post Emancipation Marronage: Founding Families of Freedom Colonies

Darold Cuba, University of Cambridge

Immediately after the US Civil War, three groups of American freedmen emerged: (1) those who stayed on the plantations to continue the work they had been doing for generations, but now, supposedly, with the opportunity to be compensated and “share” in the “profits of the crops,” (2) those who immediately embraced the nation’s lip service promise to achieve the “American Dream,” and so fled to the cities, and (3) a small number, mostly overlooked, who gained their 40 Acres and a mule PLUS - land, sovereignty and resources - to create their own communities, safely away from the systemic white supremacy and institutional racism that structured American culture and society post Civil War. While those who stayed on plantations to “share crop” experienced a vicious debt peonage as the former enslavers and overseers endeavored to return them as close to slavery as possible, and those who ran to the cities - outside of a small ‘Black Elite’ - were redlined, and subjected to myriad other racist Jim Crow, Black Codes of white supremacy including the ghettoization that many inner cities are known for today, the freedom colony founding families flourished in building strong, loving communities, attaining high education and academic achievement, and other strong bases of cultural value systems. What did this latter group see that the other groups didn’t see? And why were they in the minority, so much that mainstream Western society has barely heard of these communities of which there are an estimated 5,000 in the US (with 550 found in Texas alone, and 50 which became cities in Oklahoma). These families became a new development in American society - a Black Landed Gentry - a “patrician blue-blooded strata” of the ‘Black Elite,’ and their stories and histories are mostly unknown in the public memory.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 196. Rediscovering Histories: Land Ownership, Communities, and Freedom in Post-Emancipation America