The majority of urban black slaveowners were women. In 1820, free black women represented 68 percent of heads of households and 70 percent of slaveholding heads of colored households. The large percentage of black women slaveowners is explained by the combined effects of manumission (being freed by their white masters for whom they fathered children), inheritance (receiving slaves from their white masters, relatives, and even husbands who had a higher mortality rate than women), and personal industry once they were free (buying slaves themselves).
Black women were the majority of slaves emancipated by white slave owning men with whom they had had sexual relations. The miscegenous nature of South Carolina society is nowhere better revealed than by the fact that 33 percent of all the recorded colonial manumissions were mulatto children and 75 percent of all adult manumissions were females. If homosexual relations existed between black male slaves and their white masters, these relations were not directly acknowledged through emancipation. By 1830 in Charleston, 65 percent of black slaveowners bought slaves for profit rather than to free family members, as indicated in registered documents. Black slaveowners often owned family members and slaves that they used in their businesses, but only 8 percent of black slaveowners who recorded slave transactions were purely benevolent masters–buying a slave’s family members, such as their spouses, children, and other relatives.