Blacks Barred from Mail Service

Southern politicians increasingly feared that if enslaved people, some of whom were literate, had access to the mail, particularly newspapers, they might learn of the Haitians’ successful rebellion against the French in 1791 and follow their example. Gideon Granger, Habersham’s successor, shared this anxiety, writing in 1802 that because white masters chose the “most active and intelligent” slaves to handle the mail, “they will learn that a man’s rights do not depend on his color. They will, in time, become teachers to their brethren.” Congress, responded by declaring that “no other than a free white person shall be employed in carrying the mail of the United States”—a prohibition that obtained until 1865.