#### Data Analysis: African Americans on the Eve of the Civil War

These tables offer a range of basic statistics on black life. They are drawn from the federal census of 1860. Every ten years, the government collects basic information on the American population. The resulting census data offers historians a treasure-trove of information about everyday Americans who might not otherwise have left traces in the historical record.

Instructors may choose to present and discuss these tables with the entire class, or may divide the class up into four groups, each of which may consider its table and questions on its own before reporting back to the class. It is suggested that, because Table 1 is larger, the class as a whole consider it before moving into three groups to analyze the smaller tables.

 Table 1:  Black and White Population, 1860 Region White Free black Slave Total Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent New England 3,110,480 99.2% 24,711 0.8% 0 0.0% 3,135,191 100.0% Mid-Atlantic 7,327,548 98.2% 131,272 1.8% 18 0.0% 7,458,838 100.0% Midwest 7,833,904 99.2% 65,719 0.8% 17 0.0% 7,899,640 100.0% Upper South 4,463,501 76.4% 183,369 3.1% 1,195,985 20.5% 5,842,855 100.0% Lower South 3,573,199 55.9% 67,418 1.1% 2,754,526 43.1% 6,395,143 100.0% Far West 382,149 98.9% 4,259 1.1% 0 0.0% 386,408 100.0% United States 26,690,781 85.8% 476,748 1.5% 3,950,546 12.7% 31,118,075 100.0%

Source: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, "Historical, Demographic, Economic, and Social Data: The United States, 1790-1970" [Computer file] (Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, 1997).

Questions:
1. In what region of the country did free African Americans constitute the largest percentage of the total population?
2. Where did enslaved African Americans constitute the largest percentage of the total population?
3. What might account for the relative size of free black and slave populations in each area? That is, why were free blacks numerous where they were, and why were enslaved African Americans numerous where they were?
4. Based on this table, make some conjectures about what life might have been like for free African Americans in the northern states. Consider the racial attitudes they may have confronted, their ability to find jobs, and the strength of their communities.

 Table 2: African-American Population by Region, 1860 Region Rural Urban New England 36.5% 63.5% Mid-Atlantic 50.3% 49.7% Midwest 67.0% 33.0% Upper South 61.5% 38.5% Lower South 69.1% 30.9%

Source: "1860 Free Population - Preliminary," Steven Ruggles and Matthew Sobek, Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 2.0 (Minneapolis: Historical Census Projects, University of Minnesota, 1997).

Questions:
1. In what region was the African-American population most likely to live in rural settings? In what region was it might likely to live in urban ones?
2. What might account for these differences?
3. This table does not distinguish between free and enslaved African Americans. Given the information in Table 1, can you make some conjectures about the free black population of the South? Do you think free blacks in the South would be more or less likely than slaves to live in urban areas?
4. Imagine the kinds of work free African Americans in the North may have undertaken in rural and urban areas.

 Table 3: Percent of Free Population Claiming to Hold Some Property, 1860 White Free black Difference North 18.1% 11.7% -6.4% Upper South 19.4% 9.8% 9.5% Lower South 18.8% 17.9% -0.9%

Source: "1860 Free Population - Preliminary," Steven Ruggles and Matthew Sobek, Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 2.0 (Minneapolis: Historical Census Projects, University of Minnesota, 1997).

Questions:
1. In which region were free African Americans most likely to claim some property? In which was the free black population least likely?
2. In which region were free African Americans nearly as likely as white Americans to hold property? In which were they the least likely?
3. What general conclusions might we draw from these data about free black life in the three regions of the United States?
4. Based on this information, draw some conjectures about what life might have been like for free black Northerners.

 Table 4: Average Property Claimedy by White and Free Black People, 1860 Region White Free black Black as % of White North \$583 \$92 16% Upper South \$938 \$30 3% Lower South \$1,388 \$206 15% Nation \$751 \$85 11%

Source: "1860 Free Population - Preliminary," Steven Ruggles and Matthew Sobek, Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 2.0 (Minneapolis: Historical Census Projects, University of Minnesota, 1997).

Questions:
1. According to these data, in which region did free African Americans claim the most average property? In which region did they claim the least?
2. In which region did free African Americans own the most property relative to white Americans?
3. Based on this information, draw some conjectures about what life might have been like for free black Northerners.
4. The table is useful, but may not portray the complete picture. Can you think of ways that the table may present an incomplete portrait of free black property owning? What additional factors might a more detailed investigation consider?