Whites generally were associated with roles including plantation overseers and supervisors or small proprietors; free non-whites generally suffered from circumscribed social and political abilities prior to the revolution (Knight, 2005). While their wealth and education may place them about smaller merchants and proprietors in the white class, they were still not held to the highest castes or ranks. Slaves were often distinguished as property and subject to coercion and much control (Knight, 2005).
The presence of a slave society resulted in an extremely turbulent and volatile environment where tensions among whites and members of other races were constantly raised (Knight, 2005). Lacking among all races and groups was solidarity among classes with respect to humanity and civil rights or political rights (Knight, 2005). In each of these instances race served as the impetus for revolts and revolution. With lack of solidarity and a general in acceptance of legal and social condemnation, members of colored races continually instigated resistance to systems that would subjugate them and prevent their equality or freedoms (Knight, 2005). Race relations proved destructive as evidenced by the more than twenty slave revolts that occurred between the years of 1789 and 1832 alone, many of which occurred along the French Caribbean and Haitian regions (Knight, 2005). This pattern repeated itself across other colonial environments affecting all aspects of social, political and economic policy.
The lack of conformity among colonists living even within the same general region contributed to the turbulent environment and unrest experienced in each of the areas discussed (Oliver-Velez, 2003). For example even in the United States certain states including Louisiana operated under a three tiered system, where mixed race persons and free persons of color enjoyed economic freedom and opportunities for education that were otherwise denied mixed-race members of society or free blacks in other areas of the Americans including the south (Oliver-Velez, 2003; Dominguez, 1986). Many social anthropologists have referred to the race relations that exited during this century within the United States by the term "caste" to explain the varying levels of political and social order and opportunity that existed among varying population s (Oliver-Velez, 2003). Within the U.S. some lighter skinned blacks may be regarded as belonging to an upper caste and hence often adopted superior attitudes toward their darker peers despite their common ancestry (Oliver-Velez, 2003). Hence race had even far reaching social effects as members of certain races began ranking one another even when they shared a common cultural heritage. This idea permeated equally in the United States, Saint Domingue and even in British North America in some respects (Dominguez, 1986).
Race relations in early history were often turbulent and disjointed, a fact that is reflected in the economics, politics and social history of the land. Society has often used race as a measuring stick for defining social and political roles in society. This is evidenced even in early society where race relations were a key determinant of the political and social solidarity or lack thereof within a given landscape.
Within multiple areas of the United States race played an important role in societies well being and formation. Members of society often used race to define what members of society were deserving of certain benefits of luxuries and what members of society should be relegated to lower social and political status.
Early colonists often used race as the measuring stick for determining how to structure one's life and who was deserving of certain luxuries or benefits. Race played a vital role in the shaping of the social and political structure that still exists in many areas of the United States today. Members of society still measure self-worth in some respects based on racial considerations. Race is also still commonly used as the impetus or measuring stick for conflict and turbulent relations whether social, economic or political in nature.
Dominguez, Virginia R. White by Definition, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick:
Knight, F.W. "Haitian Revolution." Today in Black History. (2005). Available:
Oliver-Velez. "Color, Caste and class in the Americas." AfriGeneas World Research