How many free blacks were there in the United States in the mid 1800s?

The 1860 census listed 488,070 free blacks in the United States.

Some, children of a slave mother and a white slavemaster, for example, had been freed privately. Some had been slaves who had saved enough money, from outside work, to buy their freedom.

Others had been given their freedom as a reward for faithful service or had been freed after their owner’s death by a provision in the owner’s will. Some had escaped to freedom. More than half of these free blacks lived in the South.

Still, if a person had dark skin, it was up to him or her to prove that he or she was not a slave.