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Free Blacks Database

Peer-Reviewed Data Article

Page Image

Free Woman of Color, New Orleans, 1844 "Free Woman of Color, New Orleans, 1844", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed June 24, 2020,

Volume 1 Issue 1

Free Blacks Database

Article Author

Brian K. Mitchell


Brian K. Mitchell

University of Arkansas Little Rock

Date Published


How to Cite

Mitchell, Brian. "Free Blacks Database." Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation 1, no. 1 (2020).

Article DOI

Article Rights

Copyright: Brian Mitchell

Article License

Dataset Publisher

Harvard Dataverse

The "Free Blacks" dataset was created from The Mayor's Register of Free Blacks in the City of New Orleans from 1840 to 1864. The source document is located in the New Orleans City Archive as The Mayor's Register of Free Blacks in the City of New Orleans from 1840 to 1864 [AA430]. The source document consists of four volumes of ledgers. The first volume is written in French and the remaining three volumes are in English. The entries from the volume written in French were translated into English for entry into the database. Access to images from the source document from the first volumes of French text. The register was a government document in which free blacks with less than 50% white ancestry (mulattoes, grifs, and negroes) were required to register themselves. The data was also isolated into fields to lead the user to a variety of other data sources in the city relating to the individuals within. For example, a user can look at the number of manumissions from the same notary or from the same time period. The database is a finding aid for those collections, it lists specific notaries and dates of filing, specific baptism records, and has been correlated to specific emancipation records were applicable.
The Mayor's Register of Free Blacks in the City of New Orleans from 1840 to 1864 was created after the Louisiana state legislature passed a law prohibiting the emigration of free blacks in to the state on March 16, 1830. In order to police the free black populace and to prevent the introduction of new free blacks into Louisiana, the law required "all free negroes, griffs and mulattoes of the first degree" who had entered the state after the adoption of the Constitution of 1812 and before January 1, 1825 to enroll themselves with the office of the Parish Judge of their resident parish or with the office of the Mayor of the City of New Orleans. The rolls kept by these offices were to include the person's "age, sex, colour, trade or calling, place of nativity and the time of their arrival in the State." A fee of fifty cents was charged to the registrant at the time of enrollment.[1]
Describing free black emigrants as “floating scum,” the New Orleans True American argued that the introduction of additional free blacks into state “sowed dissention among slaves” and encouraged the flight of their enslaved population toward freedom in the north. Writing on the prohibition of free black emigration into the state, the True American maintained that the barring of free blacks from its borders was desired “to effect the safety of the people of the south – their happiness- their comfort.”[2]

[1] City Archives; New Orleans Public Library; Records of the Office of the Mayor, Register of free persons of color entitled to remain in the state, 1840-1864  (accessed on April 16, 2020).
[2] “Our Free-Colored Population,” True American (New Orleans), February 12, 1839, Pg. 2.

Date Data Collected

2015 - 2016

Languages of the Data



Coverage Spatial

New Orleans

Temporal Coverage

1840 - 1864

Document Type(s)

Census or Register


The dataset has a population of 2,818 individuals and 50 variables. Registered free blacks are listed by name, sex, age, year  of birth, ethnicity, color, country of origin, city of origin, state of origin, date of arrival, profession, method of manumission, date of emancipation, age at time of emancipation, notary of record, court, judges, or recorders of record, baptism church, baptism record, Emancipation record index, succession record, former owners name, former owners relationship to the free person, among others.

Source Citations

The Mayor’s Register of Free Blacks in the City of New Orleans from 1840 to 1864. Louisiana Division/City Archives and Special Collections (LA: New Orleans Public Library).


National Endowment for the Humanities

Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at Michigan State University

Louisiana Division/City Archives and Special Collections at the New Orleans Public Library

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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