I’m re-writing and re-setting a short story I wrote years ago. For various reasons, including enhancement of the plot and the tension in the situation, I want to use the pre-Civil War South as a setting. The only problem is that I have only a very general idea of what life was like at the time. I have a few specific questions I want to clear up, but I also would like some IMHO-style recommendations for research reading.
What was life like for free Blacks during the early 1800s? Would it be plausible for a free Black woman to work as the head housekeeper for a plantation owner? How likely would that be compared to having one of the house slaves do the same work? Were there any well-documented mixed marriages from this time period? I’m sure there were at least some mixed marriages, but what I’m looking for is something that would give an idea what it was like for them in that society, like diary entries or narratives.
I am not particularly interested in works that spend a great deal of time talking about how terrible conditions were for slaves and that document the abuses of the system. Frankly, those kinds of books are very easy to find. I have a few in my reading stack right now. I’m looking for ones that seem more difficult to find: books that show what life was like for free Blacks.
Also, anything that gives a good idea of what daily life was like for most of other segments of society would be very helpful. I realize that to give the story both credibility and depth I’ll have to know quite a bit about how people thought, what they did every day, how they spent their leisure time, how they all interacted with each other.