How free and un-free Blacks resisted the institution of enslavement

In the nineteenth century, Philadelphia had the most vibrant, dynamic, and influential free black communities. They relied heavily on each other to confront the power of slavery after the war. Abolition laws and increased emergency of powerful black families in the region contributed to the rise of the free black population. There was a large number of immigrants who found their way to Philadelphia and decided to settle there. 

After slavery abolition in Philadelphia during the 1780s, the number of the black population began to increase (Turner, 1912). Some black people were economically successful, and others were working as professionals, such as teachers. Others became farmers, entrepreneurs, working to leverage their expertise and skills to establish themselves as an indispensable part of the community. 

According to Philadelphia: The Great Experiment (2012), black and women sought to represent their society in the best way possible and make the city prosper. They taught one another, created businesses, served as clergy in the church, and created organizations that pushed for the complete abolition of slavery and bettering the lives of the black community.

Free blacks and enslaved blacks lived in the same communities and interacted on numerous grounds (Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, 2015). Their lives, however, were different, and there was a sharp difference in classes. The free blacks were building the economy, whereas the enslaved ones had few opportunities.

Although the un-free black people had less influence economically and few rights, they could rebel against enslavers, ram away or even perform small daily acts of resistance, such as slowing down their productivity in farm and other slave duties.


Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. (2012). Erica Dunbar on Free Blacks in Philadelphia [Video]. YouTube.

Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. (2015). Kaye Wise Whitehead on Enslaved Blacks vs. Free Blacks [Video]. YouTube.

Turner, E. R. (1912). The Abolition of Slavery in Pennsylvania.