Prior to the mid 1830s many Southern states were more liberal with the rights of free blacks.
In 1835 during the North Carolina State Constitution Convention a great debate ensued.
[The second matter before the convention was the question of aborgating or restricting the privilege of free Negroes to vote. As soon as the proposal to abrogate the privilege of free Negroes to vote was introduced, a lively debate ensued. There were those who supported disfranchisement, those who opposed it, and those who favored certain property qualifications for free Negro voting. The first to speak was Judge Joseph Daniel of Halifax. He offered a resolution that all free Negroes possessing a freehold estate of $250 should be entitled to vote for members of the House of Commons. Judge Daniel felt that the door should be open to "all colored men of good character and industrious habits." He believed it would be good policy to "adopt such a course as would have a tendency to conciliate the most respectable portion of the colored population, and thereby give them a standing distinct from the slave population, and afford them an opportunity of some intercourse with the whites.
Weldon Edwards of Warren County said that "if the Bill of Rights which said that people of North Carolina ought not to be taxed without their consent freely given, bears upon negroes equally whit whites, it would appear wrong to deny them a vote for members of the Assembly." Judge Daniel replied that the Bill of Rights did not apply to men of color, but he was willing to allow colored men of property and standing to vote for members. "From an observance of their conduct for the past thirty years he could say that they uniformly voted for men to represent them of the best character and talents."]
There were many who were for disenfranchisement and there arguments would be very offensive today. But here are more statements from those opposed.
["We have always considered them as subjects fit for taxation and certain public duties. If fit for those purposes, they ought to be allowed some privileges." ] Emanuel Shober of Stokes.
[Mr. (John) Giles (of Rowan) said that even if free Negroes did have some influence in elections, he was not disturbed unless it could be proved that they gave such elections a bad direction. He said that if the free Negro sold his vote, it was to a white purchaser, who by his actions was setting a very poor example:
"The people, by their own free will sent us here, and when this sound principle is acted upon in our elections, we shall hear no more of free negroes' votes being purchased. No free negro would ever think of offering his vote in the market. Do we ow these people nothing?...We have the power and ought to devise some mode of raising them from their present degradation."]
Judge William Gaston of Craven: [Mr. Gaston denied that the question was whether or not the right of suffrage should be granted to free Negroes. He insisted that it was whether it should be taken away. He said that the free Negro should not be politically excommunicated. "Let them know they are a part of the body politic, and they will feel an attachment to the form of Government, and have a fixed interest in the prosperity of the community, and will exercise an important influence over the slaves."
Those in favor of keeping the right for free Blacks to vote lost by only five votes. In most of North Carolina this change to the state constitution did not go over very well. Many local papers renounced this turn of events.
"There is, so far as we can learn, a general feeling of regret in this community to the total disfranchisement of the free coloured people. There are a few...of that class in Fayetteville, who have every qualification of intelligence, respectability, usefulness, and property, to entitle them, fairly, to excercise this high privilege." Carolina Observer, June 14, 1835.
The Free Negro of North Carolina, 1790-1860 by John Hope Franklin.
This string of post proves that many Southerners had no problem with freeing black slaves and letting them enjoy privileges that whites enjoyed prior to the Civil War. At least in the furture Confederate states of Virginia and North Carolina.