Truth of How Slavery Started The Black Slave Trade and Racism

Dr. Claud Anderson delivered a very interesting and informative lecture concerning the history of slavery and how the lingering effects are still being felt today. There are some opinions expressed by Dr. Anderson that I disagree with and some facts that conflict with the research I have done (see comments), but the majority of his lecture is on point.

The cartoon, "The Unequal Opportunity", provides a great visual representation of what Dr. Anderson discussed in his lecture.

Legal research animated 250 x 250

Black Codes

From the colonial period, colonies and states passed laws that discriminated against blacks. Over the period of 1687-1865, Virginia alone enacted more than 130 slave statutes, among which were seven major slave codes, with some containing more than fifty provisions. "Black Codes" in the antebellum South contained more regulations of free Blacks than of slaves. Chattel slaves basically lived under the complete control of their owners; free blacks presented a challenge to the boundaries of White-dominated society. After the Civil War, Black Codes were part of a larger pattern of Southern whites trying to suppress the new freedom of emancipated African American slaves, the freedmen.

A Sampling of Major Laws Enacted Against Blacks:

  • 1619 Maryland Segregation Policy /Recommended that blacks be socially excluded
  • 1642 Virginia Fugitive Law Authorized branding of an "R" in the face runaway slaves.
  • 1660 Connecticut Military Law Barred blacks from military service
  • 1664 Maryland Marriage Law Enactment of the first anti-interracial marriage statues
  • 1667 British Plantation Act Established codes of conduct for slaves and slaveholders
  • 1686 Carolina Trade Law Barred blacks from all trades
  • 1691 Virginia Marriage Law Prescribed banishment for any white woman marrying a black man.
  • 1705 Massachusetts Anti- Criminalized Miscegenation Law interracial marriages
  • 1705 New York Runaway Law prescribed execution for recaptured runaway slaves
  • 1705 Virginia Public Office Law prohibited blacks from holding or assuming any public office
  • 1710 Virginia enacted Meritorious Manumission rewarded slaves with freedom for informing on other slaves
  • 1712 South Carolina Fugitive Slave Act criminalized runaway slaves to protect owners' investment
  • 1715 North Carolina criminalized blacks and white marriages
  • 1721 Delaware Marriage Law prohibited marriage between black men and white women
  • 1722 Pennsylvania Morality Law condemned blacks for sexual acts with whites
  • 1722 Pennsylvania Anti-Miscegenation Law Criminalized interracial marriages
  • 1723 Virginia Anti-Assembly Law Impeded blacks from meeting or having a sense of community
  • 1723 Virginia Weapons Law prohibited African-Americans from keeping weapons
  • 1740 South Carolina Consolidated Slave Act prohibited slaves from raising or owning farm animals
  • 1775 Virginia Runaway Law allowed sale or execution of slaves attempting to flee
  • 1775 North Carolina Manumission Law prohibited freeing slaves except for meritorious service
  • 1784 Connecticut Military Law prohibited blacks from serving in the militia
  • 1790 First Naturalization Law Congress declares United States a white nation
  • 1792 Federal Militia Law restricted enrollment in peacetime to whites only
  • 1793 Fugitive Slave Law prevented slaves from running away; protected planters' invested capital
  • 1783 Virginia Migration Law prevented free blacks from entering the state.
  • 1800 Maryland Agricultural Law prohibited blacks from raising and selling agricultural products
  • 1804 Ohio enacted Anti-Mobility Law  "Black Laws" that restricted African-Americans' movements
  • 1804 Ohio Registration Law required blacks to register and annually post a bond
  • 1805 Maryland License Law prohibited blacks from selling tobacco or corn without a license
  • 1806 Louisiana Migration Law prohibited immigration for free black males over 15 years old
  • 1807 Maryland Residence Law limited residence of entering free blacks to two weeks
  • 1809 Congressional Mail Law excluded blacks from carrying U.S. mail
  • 1810 Maryland Voting Law restricted voting rights to whites only
  • 1811 Delaware Migration Law prohibited migration of blacks and levied $10 per week fine
  • 1811 Kentucky Conspiracy Law Made conspiracy among slaves a capital offense
  • 1813 Virginia Poll Tax exacted a $1.50 tax on blacks who were forbidden to vote.
  • 1814 Louisiana Migration Law prohibited free blacks from entering the state
  • 1815 Virginia Poll Tax required free blacks to pay tax so whites could vote
  • 1816 Louisiana Jury Law provided that no black person could testify against a white person.
  • 1818 Connecticut Voting Law disenfranchised black voters
  • 1819 Missouri Literacy Law prohibited assembling or teaching slaves to read or write
  • 1820 South Carolina Migration Law prohibited free blacks from entering the State
  • 1821 District of Columbia Registration Law  required blacks to register annually and post bond
  • 1826 North Carolina Migration Law prohibited entry of free blacks; violators fined $500.00
  • 1827 Maryland Occupation Acts prohibited blacks from driving or owning hacks, carts, and drays
  • 1827 Florida Voting Law restricted voting to whites 1829 Illinois Marriage Law prohibited marriages between blacks and whites
  • 1829 Georgia Literacy Law punished by fine and imprisonment for teaching a black person to read
  • 1830 Louisiana Expulsion Law required all free blacks to leave the state within 60 days
  • 1830 Mississippi Employment Law prohibited black employment in printing and entertainment
  • 1830 Kentucky Property Tax Law taxed blacks and prohibited them from voting or attending school
  • 1831 North Carolina License Law Required all black traders and peddlers to be licensed
  • 1831 South Carolina enacted Licensing Prohibition which denied free blacks any kind of a business license.
  • 1831 Indiana Mobility Law required blacks to register in order to work and post bond
  • 1831 Mississippi Preaching Law prohibited free blacks to preach except with permission
  • 1832 Alabama and Virginia enacted Literacy Laws which fined and flogged whites for teaching blacks to read or write
  • 1833 Georgia Employment Law prohibited blacks from working in reading or writing jobs
  • 1833 Georgia Literacy Law provided fines and whippings for teaching blacks.
  • 1833 Kentucky Licensing Prohibition no free person of color could obtain a license
  • 1835 Missouri Registration Law required the registration and bonding of all free African-American
  • 1835 Georgia Employment Law prohibited employing blacks in drug stores
  • 1836 District of Columbia Business License Law prohibited blacks from profit-making activities
  • 1837 South Carolina Curfew Law required blacks to be off the streets by a certain hour
  • 1838 Virginia School of Law prevented African-Americans who had gone North to school from returning.
  • 1838 North Carolina Marriage Law declared void all interracial marriages to 3rd generation
  • 1841 South Carolina Observing Law prohibited blacks and whites from looking out the same windows
  • 1842 Maryland Information Law criminalized and made a felony for blacks to request or receive abolition newspapers
  • 1844 Maryland Color Tax placed a tax on all employed black artisans
  • 1844 South Carolina Amusement Law prohibited blacks from playing games with whites
  • 1844 Maryland Occupation Act excluded blacks from the carpentry trade
  • 1845 Georgia Contracting Law prohibited contracts with black mechanics
  • 1846 Kentucky Incitement Law provided imprisonment for inciting blacks to rebel
  • 1847 Missouri Literacy Law prohibited teaching blacks to read or write
  • 1848 Virginia Incitement Law provided the death penalty for advising blacks to rebel
  • 1850 Fugitive Slave Law Enacted resulted in stronger enforcement provisions
  • 1852 Georgia Tax Law imposed an annual $5.00 per capita tax on all free blacks
  • 1853 Virginia Poll Tax Law levied a tax on all free blacks.
  • 1856 Virginia Drug Law prohibited selling poisonous drugs to blacks
  • 1857 Dred Scott Decision U.S. Supreme Court dehumanized and disenfranchised all black whether free or slave.
  • 1858 Maryland Recreation Law prohibited free blacks and slaves from boating on the Potomac
  • 1868 Southern Black Codes deprived blacks of the right to vote and hold public office
  • 1883 Civil rights Law of 1875 U.S. Supreme Court Weakened challenged the constitutionality of the law
  • 1898 The Grandfather Clause deprived blacks of the right to vote in Louisiana

Convict Leasing

In addition to the black codes and immediately following the end of the Civil War a new form of slavery was created called convict leasing. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime. Convict leasing was a system of penal labor practiced in the Southern United States, beginning with the emancipation of slaves at the end of the Civil War in 1865, peaking around 1880, and officially ending in the last state, Alabama, in 1928. It persisted in various forms until it was abolished in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, several months after the attack on Pearl Harbor involved the U.S. in the conflict.


At the same time, and persisting for decades beyond convict leasing, peonage (debt slavery) was a problem for poor blacks and whites in the South, who became entrapped by systems of low pay and indebtedness purportedly to company or plantation stores. Peonage as a form of involuntary servitude that was outlawed by an 1867 United States federal statute. The statute was not enforced for thirty-one years even though peonage in its various guises was defined in a half dozen Supreme Court cases and scores of federal district cases. The federal government began enforcing the peonage statute in 1898.

Jim Crow

Between 1890 and 1910, ten of the eleven former Confederate states, starting with Mississippi, passed new constitutions or amendments that effectively disenfranchised most blacks and tens of thousands of poor whites through a combination of poll taxes, literacy and comprehension tests, and residency and record-keeping requirements.

Grandfather clauses temporarily permitted some illiterate whites to vote but gave no relief to most blacks. Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enforcing racial segregation in the Southern United States. Enacted after the Reconstruction period, these laws continued in force until 1965. They mandated statutory racial segregation in all public facilities in states of the former Confederate States of America, starting in 1890 with a "separate but equal" status for African Americans. Conditions for African Americans were consistently inferior and underfunded compared to those available to white Americans.

This body of law institutionalized a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. Segregation legislated and enforced by statutes was mainly applied to the Southern United States, while Northern segregation was generally institutionalized patterns of discrimination rather than actual racial segregation laws. Housing segregation enforced by private covenants, bank lending practices, and job discrimination, white only business practices including discriminatory employment and union and practices were collectively part of systematic discrimination in the North.

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism, a term coined in the late 1960s by activists Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, is any system of inequality based on race. It can occur in institutions such as public government bodies, private business corporations (such as media outlets), and universities (public and private). Institutional racism is the differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society.

When the differential access becomes integral to institutions, it becomes common practice, making it difficult to rectify. Eventually, this racism dominates public bodies, private corporations, public and private universities, and is reinforced by the actions of conformists and newcomers.

Another difficulty in reducing institutionalized racism is that there is no sole, true identifiable perpetrator.  When racism is built into the institution, it emerges as the collective action of the population. Below is an interesting video illustration titled, "Slavery Isn't Over They Just Changed What They Called It"

Comments and conflicts on points raised in Dr. Anderson's lecture.

Anthony Johnson and John Casor

Anthony Johnson's case, which was decided in 1655, did not create the institution of permanent slavery in Virginia. In 1620 slaves were sold in Virginia, when a Dutch man-of-war ship arrived with 20 Negro slaves for sale. Source: "An Inquiry into The Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America", by Thomas R.R. Cobb, published 1858 (pg 148).

Johnson was captured in his native Angola by an enemy tribe and sold to Arab slave traders. He was eventually sold as an indentured servant to a merchant working for the Virginia Company. The following year (1623) "Mary, a Negro" arrived from England aboard the ship Margaret. She was brought to work on the same plantation as Antonio, where she was the only woman.

Antonio and Mary married and lived together for over forty years. Sometime after 1635, Antonio and Mary gained their freedom from indenture. Antonio changed his name to Anthony Johnson. Johnson took ownership of a large plot of farmland after he paid off his indentured contract by his labor. On 24 July 1651, he acquired 250 acres of land under the headright system by buying the contracts of five indentured servants, one of whom was his son Richard Johnson. 

In 1651 he owned 250 acres and the services of four white and one black indentured servants. In 1653, John Casor, a black indentured servant whose contract Johnson appeared to have bought in the early 1640s, approached Captain Goldsmith, claiming his indenture had expired seven years earlier and that he was being held illegally by Johnson. A neighbor, Robert Parker, intervened and persuaded Johnson to free Casor. Parker offered Casor work, and he signed a term of indenture to the planter. Johnson sued Parker in the Northampton Court in 1654 for the return of Casor. The court initially found in favor of Parker, but Johnson appealed.

In 1655, the court reversed its ruling. Finding that Anthony Johnson still "owned" John Casor, the court ordered that he be returned with the court dues paid by Robert Parker. This was the first instance of a judicial determination in the Thirteen Colonies holding that a person who had committed no crime could be held in servitude for life.

Although Casor was the first person declared a slave in a civil case, there were both black and white indentured servants sentenced to lifetime servitude before him. Many historians describe indentured servant John Punch as the first documented slave in America, as he was sentenced to life in servitude as punishment for escaping in 1640. 

The Punch case was significant because it established the disparity between his sentence as a Negro and that of the two European indentured servants who escaped with him (one described as Dutch and one as a Scotchman). It is the first documented case in Virginia of an African sentenced to lifetime servitude. It is considered one of the first legal cases to make a racial distinction between black and white indentured servants.

Black Slave Owners

The law of some slave states prohibited slave owners from freeing their slaves. In 1830, the year most carefully studied by Carter G. Woodson, about 13.7 percent (319,599) of the black population was free. Of these, 3,776 free Negroes owned 12,907 slaves, out of a total of 2,009,043 slaves owned in the entire United States. In his essay, " 'The Known World' of Free Black Slaveholders," Thomas J. Pressly, using Woodson's statistics, calculated that 54 (or about 1 percent) of these black slave owners in 1830 owned between 20 and 84 slaves; 172 (about 4 percent) owned between 10 to 19 slaves; and 3,550 (about 94 percent) each owned between 1 and 9 slaves.

Crucially, 42 percent owned just one slave. Pressly also shows that the percentage of free black slave owners as the total number of free black heads of families was quite high in several states, namely 43 percent in South Carolina, 40 percent in Louisiana, 26 percent in Mississippi, 25 percent in Alabama and 20 percent in Georgia. So why did these free black people own these slaves? It is reasonable to assume that the 42 percent of the free black slave owners who owned just one slave probably owned a family member to protect that person, as did many of the other black slave owners who owned only slightly larger numbers of slaves. In many instances, the husband purchased the wife or vice versa.  

Slaves of Negroes were in some cases the children of a free father who had purchased his wife. If he did not thereafter emancipate the mother, as so many such husbands could not or failed to do, his own children were born his slaves and were thus officially, his number of slaves increased. Moreover, Woodson explains, "Benevolent Negroes often purchased slaves to make their lot easier by granting them their freedom for a nominal sum, or by permitting them to work it out on liberal terms." In other words, these black slave-owners, the clear majority, cleverly used the system of slavery to protect their loved ones.

Willie Lynch

See: The Willie Lynch Letter – How to Make A Slave, under the History tab which includes the full text of the letter along with commentary.

African Tribes Selling Slaves

Slavery in historical Africa was practiced in many different forms and some of these do not clearly fit the definitions of slavery elsewhere in the world. Debt slavery, the enslavement of war captives, military slavery, and criminal slavery were all practiced in various parts of Africa.

In most African societies where slavery was prevalent, the enslaved people were not treated as chattel slaves and were given certain rights in a system similar to indentured servitude elsewhere in the world and were often not enslaved for life.

Africa is not a country. Then as now, Africa was comprised of many different villages, kingdoms, and countries, therefore, Africans were not selling “their own”, they were selling their enemies, just as the Greeks and Romans once did. Chattel slavery had been legal and widespread throughout North Africa when the region was controlled by the Roman Empire. 

When the Arab slave trade and the Atlantic slave trade began, many of the local slave systems changed and began supplying captives for slave markets outside of Africa. Most African countries did not sell slaves and some even fought against it. In order to increase the supply of slaves, slave traders often incited conflicts among villages and tribes. 

Because Europeans controlled the supply of guns there was little Africans could do to stop it. Slave traders would often befriend a village or tribal chief, give them guns and then create a conflict with neighboring tribes. The slave trader would then visit the neighboring village, and offer guns for sale so they could protect themselves. However, the only payment they would accept were slaves. The slave traders would then go back to the first tribe and offer more guns, except that time trade of slaves was required. 

Other Related Material

Goodbye Uncle Tom – 1971 Graphic movie about slavery which was then banned in the United States

Slavery by another name – Another forced labor system replaced slavery between the Civil War and World War II

Slavery Isn't Over, They Just Changed What They Called It – Discussions about mental and economic slavery

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome – Mental disorder cause from a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination

Should the U.S. Provide Reparations for Slavery and Jim Crow?

The Willie Lynch Letter: The Making of a Slave

Narrative of Wiliam W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave

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