Free Blacks in the North and South, The Liberator, January 22, 1831

William Lloyd Garrison, a leading northern abolitionist, began publishing his anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator, in January 1831. In this early article he compares the conditions of free blacks in the North and the South and the differences in the discrimination and prejudice they faced. As Garrison noted, freedom did not afford African Americans either civil rights or justice.


In most of the States in which slavery is tolerated, the laws in relation to free colored persons are severe in the extreme. Though their freedom is recognized, yet they have not the rights of other freemen. . . .

Few whites will eat with blacks. Even where blacks and whites are domestics in the same kitchen, the blacks, as I have been told, are often compelled to eat at a separate table. So it is said that white journeymen and apprentices of mechanics often refuse to work with blacks. The prejudice has taken two different forms in the different parts of our country. At the North, few blacks are mechanics, because the whites will not allow them to work with them. At the South, on the contrary, few of the mechanics are whites, because they will not do the same sort of work as blacks.

Source: Foner, Philip S., and Lewis, Ronald L., The Black Worker: A Documentary History from Colonial Times to the Present, Volume 1 The Black Worker to 1869. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978 p. 157