|Maryland’s history as a slaveholding state was unique. Few land holdings in the state would have rated the name of “plantation” in the eyes of slaveholders from the Southern States, as the median number of enslaved persons owned by each slaveholder in Maryland was only three. In addition no other state approached Maryland in either the absolute or relative size of its free African American population. In 1790 enslaved persons accounted for nearly one third of Maryland’s population, by 1850 their proportion had fallen to less than one-sixth. In 1790 Maryland had the second largest free population in the country; by 1810 it was first and remained so until the end of slavery.
Why was the free African American population so great in Maryland? Several historians have suggested that a powerful combination of republican principals, religious persuasion, economic pressure and antislavery activity all played important roles in creating Maryland’s unique position.
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