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The Fifth Ward Settlement is the name of a community inhabited by "Free jacks" a tri-racial (Negro. White,. Indian) marginal group comprised of at least 2,000 individuals. The etymology of the name "Free- jack" and the development of the Settlement itself go back to the early 1600's. Tracing the development of either is a very complicated and, at best, speculative process.

Due to the racial mixture--especially the Negro element—the Free- jack finds himself in social limbo, somewhere between the White and Black. This middle ground has positioned the people of the Settlement into a "marginal" existence: that is to say, at the edge or margin of both the White Society and the Black Society, but not in the mainstream of either.

Within the Settlement, various social strata have developed, based mainly upon an individual’s ability to pass as White. This race-conscious group has developed complex and elaborate means of dealing with their mixed-blood heritage. By studying the intragroup stratification and ways of coping with the marginal existence, it is hoped another perspective can be added to the understanding of race as a social category.