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The term free people of color (French: gens de couleur libres), in the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, at first specifically referred to persons of mixed African and European descent who were not enslaved.

There was relatively little manumission of slaves until after the revolution.

Throughout the slave societies of the Americas, some slave owners took advantage of the power relationships to use female slaves sexually; sometimes they had extended relationships of concubinage.

Freed African slaves were included in the term affranchis, but historically they were considered as distinct from the free people of color.

In these territories and major cities, particularly New Orleans, and those cities held by the Spanish, a substantial third class of primarily mixed-race, free people developed.

Free people of color played an important role in the history of New Orleans and the southern area of La Louisiane, both when the area was controlled by the French and Spanish, and after acquisition by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

They were also important in forming an educated class of people of color in French colonies of the Caribbean islands.

These colonial societies classified mixed-race people in a variety of ways, generally related to visible features and to the proportion of African ancestry.

Racial classifications were numerous in Latin America.

In the period of French and Spanish rule, men tended to marry later after becoming financially established.

As the German Coast colony grew and more white women arrived from France and Germany, some French men or ethnic French Creoles still took mixed-race women as mistresses, known as placées, before they officially married.

Free people of color were also an important part of the history of the Caribbean during the period of slavery and afterward.

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