This chapter examines the employment opportunities that were available to free African Americans in the Eastern Shore's agricultural society. It first considers how the steady demand for wage labor in various industries created opportunities for laborers and allowed many African Americans to seize the opportunities made available to them by an expanding labor market. It then challenges the notion that Maryland developed a “dual labor system” in the early nineteenth century, and instead argues that its labor system consisted of free, slave, and semifree workers. This “mixed labor system” is a more accurate reflection of the complexity of labor relations between planters and their former slaves during the period. The chapter concludes with a discussion of free African Americans' experience with wage work and freedom.
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