Disobeying Any One Of These Slave Laws Could Turn Deadly

August 16, 2019

South Carolina 

The South Carolina Slave Code Of 1740 prohibited anyone from “teach[ing] or caus[ing] any slave or slaves to be taught, to write.”

Your punishment for doing so was a fine of “one hundred pounds.” That’s nearly $18,000 today!


The Virginia General Assembly of 1705 decreed that slaves could not “go from off the plantation [unaccompanied by a white person]… without a certificate of leave in writing, for so doing.”

If caught, you received a MANDATORY “twenty lashes on his or her bare back, well laid on.”


The Georgia State Constitution of 1754 modeled its oppressive laws after South Carolina’s, outlawing “[the use] or keeping of drums, horns, or other loud instruments, which may call together or give sign or notice” of gatherings. 

In fact, any assembly of seven or more enslaved Africans triggered fears of rebellion and so was also punished severely. 

Other codes forbade voting, owning property, testifying in court against a white person, and interracial marriages. 

We see traces of slave code legacy today in voting suppression, disparities in education, and perhaps most blatantly whenever a white person feels “threatened” by large groups of peaceful Black folks.

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