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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

painting of a true picture of his strange subject. This biog-
raphy is different, extremely entertaining, and those who have
an interest in Southern history will not want to miss it.
San Marcos State College
The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860. By John Hope
Franklin. Chapel Hill (The University of North Carolina
Press), 1943. Pp. x, 271. $4.00.
In 1899 Professor Herbert E. Bolton wrote a doctoral dis-
sertation at the University of Pennsylvania entitled, "The Free
Negro in the Antebellum South," which was never published.
Professor Franklin notes that "it cannot be described as ex-
haustive or definitive," an estimate not only in complete accord
with Professor Bolton's own opinion of his youthful work, but
one that he would consider flattering.
Professor Bolton pioneered the subject, but soon found more
profitable fields. During the present century a number of
studies, good, bad and indifferent, have been made by less am-
bitious historians who have most generally confined themselves
to one state. Professor Franklin's study is at least as good as
any that have appeared. He has literally winnowed through a
mass of manuscripts, for the most part finding much chaff and
little wheat. But the wheat that he has found he has ground
well and baked into a good, solid loaf. With much less ex-
penditure of time and effort he might well have written a monu-
mental work in a more fruitful field.
So uniformly vacillating was the attitude of the ante-bellum
South toward the free Negro that Professor Bolton, had the
present material been available in 1899, might well have written
the definitive study. There is no doubt that Professor Franklin
could write it now. In respect to the North Carolina study it
is of interest to note that Mrs. Guion Griffis Johnson in her
Ante-Bellum North Carolina, A Social History (Chapel Hill,
The University of North Carolina Press, 1937) included in
her great work an admirable thirty-one page summary of Pro-
fessor Franklin's present volume about the time that Franklin
became seriously interested in the free Negro, and six years
before his study was published. This is not at all a reflection
upon Franklin's good work; he was simply ploughing an in-
fertile field.


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 1, 2016.

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