African American History
Except for the period between 1790 and 1810, African-Americans were a majority in South Carolina until the early 20th century.
When the first enslaved peoples were brought from Africa and the West Indies to Charlestowne they brought many skills that helped South Carolina prosper and develop. Rice cultivation can be directly attributed to African expertise. Other areas in which they have made immeasurable contributions to the state are education, business, politics, music and language.Free Blacks
Most free people of color had an ambiguous status in South Carolina, technically they were free, but, they were often treated as slaves. They were just as likely to be impoverished as to be affluent.
In 1790 there were 1,801 free blacks, compared to 250,000 enslaved blacks in the state. By 1860 there were 9,914. Beginning in the early 1800s, free persons 16 to 60 years of age had to pay a yearly capitation (per person) tax. The tax, $2 would be equivalent to $36 today.
More than half of the free blacks were mulattos, or racially mixed individuals. Some of South Carolina's most outstanding leaders were of this brown elite, including families such as the Westons, Cardozos, Noisettes and the Dereefs. Free blacks were slaveholders, both to protect relatives and friends and to create and foster wealth. Of the 26,701 slaveholders in South Carolina in 1860, less than 1 percent, 171, were free blacks.