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Dangerfield's lecture examines free people of color from Berkeley County

The Berkeley County Historical Society recently hosted a lecture by Dr. David W. Dangerfield, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie. Dangerfield’s talk, “Shades of Freedom,” examined free people of color who lived in what is now Berkeley County during the antebellum era.  

According to Dangerfield, the rural parishes that surrounded Charleston were home to a few hundred non-whites who were free before the Civil War, but their freedom was limited in scope. They could not vote, could not serve on juries, and they had a to pay a yearly “capitation” tax just for being free and not white. 

Despite these limitations, Dangerfield described strategies they used to carve out greater degrees of freedom for themselves despite the law.  Their tightly knit communities, industry, and associations with some white neighbors allowed them to live with a bit more freedom than the law permitted.

 "This lecture gave me a chance to share what drew me to this topic -- my own family's complicated European, African, and indigenous ancestry," Dangerfield said. “I’m grateful to the historical society for the chance to present some of my work in my own hometown.”