After Enslaved Black People Fought For Freedom, The Law Changed

overseer trying to punish enslaved people
William Anderson
May 8, 2023

When the dust from the Stono Rebellion settled, plantation owners were terrified – and furious. The rebellion consisted of enslaved runaways marching from South Carolina to Florida, killing plantation owners along the way before they were ultimately stopped. 

The owners wanted to make sure this couldn’t happen again.

The Security Act, which required white men to carry guns on Sundays in order to police enslaved Africans, may have sparked the rebellion. But a new, harsher law would come after – one that changed absolutely everything.

Decades after the passage of the first formal slave code in 1690, which borrowed from statutes in Barbados, the South Carolina Negro Act of 1740 was a slave code that codified white supremacy in some of the most despicable ways.

The Negro Act criminalized Black literacy and education, controlled what we wore, how we assembled, and even prohibited Black music. Furthermore, it criminalized Black self-defense and made killing a Black person simply a misdemeanor. It was highly influential outside of South Carolina, too.

And it still matters.

Policing every aspect of Black life still goes on to this day. History is there to tell us how we got here, but we must acknowledge the ongoing legacy of white supremacy as well. 

From slave codes, to Black Codes, to Jim Crow laws, to mass incarceration today, we’ve been and must continue fighting racist laws and policing.