Related By History: Police And Slave Catchers

Police line
William Anderson
August 10, 2020

1. Slave Patrols

Before the Civil War, states formed slave patrols to police our ancestors. Originating in South Carolina in 1704, wealthy slaveholders hired patrols to break up gatherings, confiscate educational materials, and keep their eyes on all Black people. These were the original cops.

2. Social Control And Lynch Law

They also used terror to maintain white supremacy. Through brutal, public punishments and executions like lynchings, white people maintained social control. Cops enabled and often participated in lynch mobs.

3. Protecting Profits 

Because we were considered property, cops and slave patrols “protected” that property. Wealthy elites also used racism to uphold inequality – they tricked poor whites into hating us instead of the rich who were exploiting them! This continues today also.

4. Reconstruction

Black people made substantial gains during the Reconstruction Era, which brought backlash in the form of the KKK. Slave patrols evolved into police forces to punish our success and control us in a new way.

5. Black Codes to Jim Crow to Now

We were re-enslaved through racist laws called Black Codes, which became Jim Crow and then mass incarceration. Prisons became the new slavery that still profits from us today. 

Policing is a problem that has “reformed” over time, but little has changed from slave patrols to modern-day cops.

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