Black Codes "Colonial America" 1619 - 1776
All of colonial America was a slave society, and as such it took measures to minimize the threat of slave uprisings by keeping slaves subservient. To that end, by the early 1700s each colony had enacted laws- later referred to as Black Codes- that not only regulated the conditions of black slaves but also restricted the rights of free blacks. The middle of the 18th century found slavery to be firmly established, both physically and legally, in the American colonies.
There were laws stipulating that slaves would serve for life, unless freed by their owner, and that any offspring of a slave woman was also a lifelong slave. Black slaves and free blacks alike could not vote, testify in court against a white person, or marry a white person. Slaves were allowed neither to carry arms nor to leave their homes without written permission.
Since white colonial Americans considered the existence of free blacks to exert a harmful influence on their enslaved kinsmen, they enacted laws that discouraged manumission (the freeing of slaves). Some colonies required legislative approval before a slave could be freed and further ordained that any manumitted slave be required to leave the colony within six months. Slaves or free blacks faced severe punishment if any dared to challenge the authority of white colonists.
Although these laws were not universally enforced, their existence shows that colonial legislators considered the threat of slave uprisings a serious issue. Indeed, the few uprisings that did occur in colonial America usually resulted in prompt enactment of more restrictive legislation and more rigid enforcement of existing legislation. As time passed, slaves and slave owners, along with their descendants, became more acclimated to their roles. The cultural gap between the races narrowed as the uprooted Africans became accustomed to life in North America, but the laws that enforced a separation between the races hardened.
Fascinating Fact: White colonists came to view slavery as a natural condition for blacks. Elaborate justifications for black slavery, based on Biblical as well as racial "research" would eventually be concocted by white slave owners.
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