Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Historical Periods in U.S. History, and Other Terminology

Hi all,

I was reading my blog and intro over and didn't mention this. I wanted to talk a bit about the terminology I use for my research. First, I want to talk about what I mean by "antebellum".

Antebellum vs. antebellum

Many dictionaries give the definition of "antebellum" as the period of history immediately before the Civil War. If you break about the word and look at it's roots, it literally means "before (ante) war (bellum)" I use antebellum in a general sense, meaning the entire period of U.S. history before the Civil War. However, there are many time periods in U.S. history, and I'm sure I might refer to them when I discuss a specific time period. I'm going to break down the time periods here in order to help you understand about them some more for you non-historians out there.
  • Pre-Contact: This is the period before Jamestown. I see no reason why I'd use this term in the blog, but wanted to add it. This has a lot to do with the "discovery" of America (both North and South) by European explorers.

  • Colonial: This period generally goes from 1607-1750. I will be using "Colonial" to discuss early free Blacks in the state.

  • Revolutionary: This period goes from 1750-1789, basically the time leading up to the Revolutionary War and the time after the War through the creation and implementation of the Constitution. This is also a term I'll be using to talk about early free Blacks. The early free Black families generally span from the Colonial period and the Revolutionary period.

  • Antebellum: There is some disagreement when the antebellum period begins. I personally view the antebellum period beginning when Gabriel's Rebellion began in 1800 and my next couple posts about the laws in NC regarding free Blacks will show you why. Generally I use antebellum to refer to the whole period of US history before the Civil War, but if you see me use "Antebellum", I'm talking about the specific Antebellum period. I know that's confusing, sorry. I'll try to give date ranges as much as possible to avoid confusion.

  • Bellum (aka, the Civil War): This is pretty straight forward, but the Civil War period is from 1860, when the first states began to withdraw from the Union, until December 1865, when the 13th amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

  • Reconstruction: The Reconstruction era lasted about 10 years, from 1866-1877. This is the period when slaves were freed and free Blacks during the antebellum period fell under the same laws as the former slaves.
I may discuss more past Reconstruction, not sure at this point, and I'll define those eras if I do.

"Black" vs. "Free Person of Color" vs. "African American"

There are different terms I may use, and I did touch on this a bit in the quiz. I use the term Black, but this offends some and they'd rather I use African American. I've used African American before, and that offended others, so instead I use what I'm most comfortable using, and since I have arthritis in my hands, I use Black. I apologize right now if that offends you, it's not my intention, but I can't please everyone.

From time to time, I may revert back and use the term "free people of color" or "FPOC" for short. I have seen quite a few people offended by this term, not just when I've used it, but other historians as well, such as Paul Heinegg and at Afrigeneas for the FPOC forum. Why do we use this term? For the simple reason that not all Blacks were/are Black, but they are often a mixture of races, such as Native American, and white. Some documents from the time refer to "Free Coloreds," which refer not only to those of African descent, but to tax paying Native Americans as well.

Manumission vs. Emancipation
So, what is manumission? This is something I'll talk a lot about. A lot of people have never heard the term before. Manumission and emancipation are pretty much the same thing. There is a slight difference though. Generally, emancipation refers to the freeing of someone from another person (i.e., they are forcing the "owner" to free them). Manumission is more voluntary. Usually the "owner" is setting his own slave free, or perhaps he purchased a slave for the purpose of manumitting that slave. I will almost always use the term "manumission."

I cannot think of anymore terminology issues as this time, if I do, I'll do another post about terminology. If you have any questions or concerns regarding terminology, please either let me know in the comments section or send me an email to discuss it privately.


Anonymous said...

I'm a young multi-racial proud black male & really appreciate your studies & time to post such findings. Thanks you

Tiffany Fleming-Lynn said...

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