The Great Dismal Swamp is the center of Gates County, North Carolina's fame, known for its bounty of flora and fauna, and tales of runaway slaves. What is overlooked however, is that in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries--before the American Civil War--nearly four hundred free people of color called Gates County and the Great Dismal Swamp home.
Rohrs provides an examination of free black apprentices in the antebellum south, using New Hanover County, North Carolina as a case study. He details the history and nature of free black apprenticeships before the Civil War, arguing that free black apprenticeships were not always exploitative.
The free Negro of ante-bellum days occupied an unenviable position in the South. In a system of white freemen and black slaves, he was an anomaly that was restricted and supervised by the courts, even in his freedom.
The author attempts to track the population of African Americans in Guilford County prior to the Civil War, a difficult task because of the lack of records before 1790. There was little to no African Americans with the first settlement of Guilford County and only a slow growth in numbers from 1830 to 1860 with the increase of slavery. Statistical information is provided regarding the number of whites, free African Americans, and slaves in Guilford County between 1790 through 1870.