Author Rodney Barfield Highlights America’s Fervent Fight for Freedom and Equality in New Book

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‘America’s Forgotten Caste’ is a deeply meaningful book that highlights the successful stories of the blacks in spite of legal and social obstacles

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All historical eras have an oppressed caste, a class of people who are denied equal rights and privileges. America’s Forgotten Caste by Rodney Barfield reveals an understanding of the complexities of social relations during the slave era in American history, the nuances of personal relations and arrangements between blacks and whites, and the use of statutes to marginalize a group of people and force them into a social caste. This book deals with how the law was used against free blacks and with the struggle of free blacks in North Carolina and Virginia to overcome social and legal obstacles.

Free blacks in antebellum America lived in a twilight world of oppressive laws and customs designed to suppress their mobility and their integration into civil society. Free blacks were free only to the extent of white tolerance in their community or town. They were at the mercy of the lowest members of the dominant race who could punish them on a whim. They were, in the words of a 19th century European traveler to America, "masterless slaves."    

Nonetheless, many successful and even prominent blacks emerged from the mire of oppressive laws to realize major achievements. Though excluded from the political process, from education, and from most professions they became preachers, teachers, missionaries, contractors, artisans, boat captains, and wealthy entrepreneurs. Members of this blurred social and legal class, which numbered nearly a half million by 1860, made great accomplishments against strong opposition in the first half of the 19th century. The history of America and of American slavery is incomplete without their story.

In Barfield’s readings and research of African American history, he was always reminded of by the large number of free blacks who, despite a legal and social structure that systematically worked against their interests, managed to accumulate wealth and property and to pass on a legacy to their children. The inequities of American justice against free blacks in the National and Antebellum eras captured the author’s interest in this era of American history.

America’s Forgotten Caste deals with the free black caste that greatly increased after the American Revolution, the inequities of American society toward it, and the successes of many free blacks in spite of legal and social obstacles designed to prevent their assimilation.

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About the Author
Rodney Barfield is a historian, author, and former history museum curator who has worked in regional history for the past forty years. His long-standing interest in Thomas Day, an antebellum free-black cabinetmaker, dates to an exhibit he curated for the North Carolina Museum of History in 1978. His previous book ‘Seasoned by Salt: A Historical Album of the Outer Banks’ (University of North Carolina Press) pays tribute to the traditional ways of the ocean-oriented communities along the North Carolina barrier islands. He lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where he continues to research and write regional history.

America’s Forgotten Caste* by Rodney Barfield
Free Blacks in Antebellum Virginia and North Carolina
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Trade Paperback; $19.99; 224 pages; 978-1-4836-1964-4
Trade Hardback; $29.99; 224 pages; 978-1-4836-1965-1
eBook; $3.99; 978-1-4836-1966-8

To request a complimentary paperback review copy, contact the publisher at (888) 795-4274 x. 7879. To purchase copies of the book for resale, please fax Xlibris at (812) 355-4079 or call (888) 795-4274 x. 7879.

For more information, contact Xlibris at (888) 795-4274 or on the web at

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