About the Collection
The Friendly Moralist Society was a benevolent society for free brown (mulatto or mixed race) men established in Charleston, S.C. in 1838. This collection contains proceedings of their monthly meetings from 1841 to 1856, and the Absentee Book, showing member absent and for what reason, from 1842 to 1849.
The Proceedings section consists of minutes taken at organizational meetings from 1841 to 1856. These minutes offer insight into the conflict between free black and brown individuals at this time. Monthly minutes of May 1844 and Oct. 1848, for instance, detail the exclusion of prospective members for being black rather than brown and the Annual Day speech of 1848 addresses the issues of being colored versus black or white. This conflict and frequent issues with finances resulted in several schisms and mass resignations in the society and is mentioned in a brief history of the society in the Annual Day address of 1853.
The “Absentees Book” of the Friendly Moralist Society details member attendance from 1842 to 1849. Many of the entries are annotated frequently in pencil, providing explanation for member absences such as “sick”, “out of town”, or “not summoned”, etc. It also notes fines levied for unexcused absences per society rules.