Slavery and the Law in Virginia

The Growth of the Black Population:
1625 23
1648 300
1671 2,000
1680 3,000
1700 16,390
1720 26,559
1730 30,000
1740 60,000
1775 210,000

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1640 — 1660: The Critical Period: Custom to Law when Status Changed to “Servant for Life”

1639/40 – The General Assembly of Virginia specifically excludes blacks from the requirement of possessing arms

1642 – Black women are deemed tithables (taxable), creating a distinction between African and English women.

1662 – Blacks face the possibility of life servitude. The General Assembly of Virginia decides that any child born to an enslaved woman will also be a slave.

1660 — 1680: Slave Laws Further Restrict Freedom of Blacks and Legalize Different Treatment for Blacks and Whites

1667 – Virginia lawmakers say baptism does not bring freedom to blacks. The statute is passed because some slaves used their status as a Christian in the 1640s and 1650s to argue for their freedom or for freedom for a child. Legislators also encourage slave owners to Christianize their enslaved men, women and children.

1668 – Free black women, like enslaved females over the age of 16, are deemed tithable. The Virginia General Assembly says freedom does not exempt black women from taxation.

1669 – An act about the “casual killing of slaves” says that if a slave dies while resisting his master, the act will not be presumed to have occurred with “prepensed malice.”

1670 – Free blacks and Native Americans who had been baptized are forbidden to buy Christian servants

1672 – It becomes legal to wound or kill an enslaved person who resists arrest. Legislators also deem that the owner of any slave killed as he resisted arrest will receive financial compensation for the loss of an enslaved laborer. Legislators also offer a reward to Indians who capture escaped slaves and return them to a justice of the peace.

1680 — 1705: Slave Laws Reflect Racism and the Deliberate Separation of Blacks and Whites. Color becomes the Determining Factor. Conscious Efforts to Rigidly Police Slave Conduct.

1680 – Virginia’s General Assembly restricts the ability of slaves to meet at gatherings, including funerals. It becomes legal for a white person or person to kill an escaped slave who resists capture. Slaves also are forbidden to: arm themselves for either offensive or defensive purposes. Punishment: 20 lashes on one’s bare back. Leave the plantation without the written permission of one’s master, mistress or overseer. Punishment: 20 lashes on one’s bare back.
“…lift up his hand against any Christian.” Punishment: 30 lashes on one’s bare back.

1691 – Any white person married to a black or mulatto is banished and a systematic plan is established to capture “outlying slaves.” If an outlying slave is killed while resisting capture, the owner receives financial compensation for the laborer. Partners in an interracial marriage cannot stay in the colony for more than three months after they married. A fine of 15 pounds sterling is levied on an English woman who gives birth to a mulatto child. The fine is to be paid within a month of the child’s birth. If a woman cannot pay the fine, she is to serve five years as an indentured servant. If the mother is an indentured servant, she faces an additional five years of servitude after the completion of her indenture. A mulatto child born to a white indentured servant will serve a 30-year indenture. A master must transport an emancipated slave out of Virginia within six months of receiving his or her freedom.

1692 – Slaves are denied the right to a jury trial for capital offenses. A minimum of four justices of the peace hear evidence and determine the fate of the accused. Legislators also decide that enslaved individuals are not permitted to own horses, cattle and hogs after December 31 of that year.

1705 – Free men of color lose the right to hold public office.

1705 – Blacks — free and enslaved — are denied the right to testify as witnesses in court cases.

1705 – All black, mulatto, and Indian slaves are considered real property.

1705 – Enslaved men are not allowed to serve in the militia.

1705 – In An act concerning Servants and Slaves, Virginia’s lawmakers: Increase the indenture of a mulatto child born to a white woman to 31 years.
Determine that if a white man or white woman marries a black partner, the white individual will be sent to jail for six months and fined 10 pounds current money of Virginia. Determine that any minister who marries an interracial couple will be assessed a fine of 10,000 pounds of tobacco. Determine that any escaped slave who is unwilling or unable to name his or her owner will be sent to the public jail.

Casual Killing Act Of Virginia October 1669 , 1723 Virginia Assembly Removes All Penalties for Those Who Kill Enslaved Africans

Omaha, Nebraska on September 25, 1919 when years of racial tension and terrorism by whites came to a climax. A young white woman named Agnes Loebeck claimed to have been raped. After providing the description of a tall and muscular Black man, 40-year-old Will Brown was the first and last person arrested for the crime. Loebeck lied proclaiming Brown to be her assailant and the Omaha Race Riot of 1919 was born. For those so-called Americans calling the racial activity in response to the Zimmerman and Darren Wilson verdicts “riots,” they need to study their history. Brown was taken to the Douglass County Courthouse while an all-white mob gathered to hunt down and kill him. The mayor, a white man himself, when demanded by the mob to reveal Brown’s location, refused and was lynched as a result. As later demonstrated in the murders of Viola Liuzzo in Lowndes County, Alabama and Jean Seberg in Paris, France, politics in America have always been “with us or against us.”

The mob soon located Brown and gathered at the Courthouse where free alcohol was distributed to fuel the tensions. The mob began to scale the building, setting it on fire, until the Judge and court staff surrendered by passing down a note revealing Brown’s exact location. He was handed over, knocked unconscious on the way downstairs, shot over a hundred times, mutilated, dragged through the town, and finally burned while surrounded by a proud American mob, posing for the local news cameras. Though 100 mob members were arrested, none would be charged and all were released within 24 hours without trial or ever seeing a judge.

Let’s now skip 95 years later and enter Ferguson, Missouri where 17-year-old Michael Brown is murdered at the hands of a police officer claiming self-defense. Post-mortem, Brown becomes the subject of his own criminal investigation while his family fights to get his assailant, Darren Wilson, put on trial. Immediately questions of whether Brown has stolen a pack of smokes arise and a criminal profile is circulated throughout the media. With every new “discovery” it seems as though the attention is not so much on whether the officer used excessive force but on whether young Michael Brown “deserved” it. This was the same strategy applied during the length of the trial against George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in February of 2012. This was the process of applying the Constitution and the 13th Amendment as they were intended during the time of their creation in 1787 and 1865 respectively. Darren Wilson was found not guilty and not indicted because the media and court system were able to portray Brown as more-than-likey guilty of a crime, therefore in need of correction and legally able to be treated as a slave.


This is where we go deeper into American history to 1669 in Virginia where the Casual Killing Act is the law of the land. This is a law stating “if any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death not be accompted felony.” We have to understand the importance of language and take note of the use of “correction.” The prison systems of the nation are collectively called the Department of Corrections (DOC). A person becomes subject to the jurisdiction of the DOC through the court systems and their conviction. A person becomes subject to the jurisdiction of the courts through the various “law enforcement” agencies such as local police departments and their arrests. Therefore, the police are the gatekeepers to the courts and by association, the system of corrections, which is highly profitable and depends on constant influx and maintenance of prison population. When we understand this relationship, we also understand that you never bite the hand that feeds you; therefore it is politically naïve for us to believe that the system would indict the hand that feeds them and the private prison companies that lend financial support to political campaigns and the like.