In United States history, a free negro or free black was the legal status, in the geographic area of the United States, of blacks who were not slaves.
This term was in use before the independence of the Thirteen Colonies and elsewhere in British North America, until the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865, which rendered the term unnecessary.
Slavery was legal and practiced in each of the Thirteen Colonies at various times. Not all Africans who came to America were slaves; a few came even in the 17th century as free men, sailors working on ships. In the early colonial years, some Africans came as indentured servants, as did many of the immigrants from the British Isles. Such servants became free when they completed their term of indenture; they were also eligible for headrights for land in the new colony in the Chesapeake Bay region, where indentured servants were more common. As early as 1619, a class of free black people existed in North America.
The free Negro population increased in a number of ways:
In most places black workers were either house servants or farm workers. Black labor was of economic importance in the export-oriented tobacco plantations of Virginia and Maryland, and the rice and indigo plantations of South Carolina. About 287,000 slaves were imported into the Thirteen Colonies, or 2% of the 12 million slaves brought across from Africa. The great majority went to sugar colonies in the Caribbean and to Brazil, where life expectancy was short and the numbers had to be continually replenished.
Life expectancy of slaves was much higher in the U.S. Combined with a very high birth rate, the numbers grew rapidly as the number of births exceeded deaths, reaching nearly 4 million by the 1860 census. From 1770 until 1860, the rate of natural growth of North American slaves was much greater than for the population of any nation in Europe, and was nearly twice as rapid as that of England. This was sometimes attributed to very high birth rates: U.S. slaves, then, reached similar