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A Troublesome Caste: Height and Nutrition of Antebellum Virginia's Rural Free Blacks

Howard Bodenhorn
The Journal of Economic History
Vol. 59, No. 4 (Dec., 1999), pp. 972-996
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2566684
Page Count: 25
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A Troublesome Caste: Height and Nutrition of Antebellum Virginia's Rural Free Blacks
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Abstract

Formal rules and informal customs created innumerable obstacles to the socioeconomic advance of Virginia's free black population. Laws prohibited free blacks from some activities and occupations and restricted their participation in others. Racism and Klan-like terrorism also made advancement difficult. Despite these disadvantages, Virginia's free black population fared rather well. They grew nearly as tall as white Americans and towered over contemporary Europeans. Primary sources and the secondary literature are consistent with the anthropometric evidence. Blacks had reasonable access to nutrients and black-white income differentials did not condemn the state's free blacks to an underclass culture of poverty.

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