AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
Black Laws of VA
When this list started a couple of weeks ago some people were posting books that they thought would be helpful for those of us doing research. For me without question one of the most important has been the book entitled "Black Laws of Virginia - A Summary of the Legislative Acts of VA concerning Negroes from the Earliest Times to Present" by June Purcell Guild, LL.M. The book was published in 1936 (I believe it was republished a couple of years ago)
"This book deals exclusively with the status of the Virginia Negro, bond and free, as tracted through the laws resolutions and ordinances of the VA. Assembly beginning with the earliest records and coming down to the present with the addition of a few pertinent sections from Va. constitutions. Law always reflects the social condition and thinking of the people who make it. This summary of the major enactments of the VA. Assembly therefore, not only clarifies the legal position of the Negro but reveals something of the official attitude of the pople with whom his fate was-and is cast."
The documents we seek were generated in response to the laws that were passed. Knowing when a law was passed gives you a time frame in which to look. The fact that laws had to be passed also means that some behaviors were already occuring and these laws were written to restrict, curtail, and outlaw behavior.
1793 Chapter 22 Free Negroes or mulattoes shall be registered and numbered in a book to be kept by the town clerk which shall specify age, name, color, statu and by whom and in what court emanicpated. (Not all Free Negroes Registered, not all clerks kept separate books sometimes registration listed in the county court order books - after Nat Turner there was more of an effort to get registrations)I believe that depending on the where the county was and the number of Free Negroes in the County also had something to do in how strictly it was enforced.
1801 Chapter 70 It is the duty of the Commissioners of the Revenue annually to return a complete list of all free Negroes within their districts with their names, sex, place of abode, and trades; a copy of the list shall be fixed to the courthouse door.Henry Co. does not appear to have kept a separate Register, but noted registrations in the Order books but they did generate this listing.
VA. was a model for many of the other southern states and many of these laws were reancted in other states by the descendants of the earlier VA. settlers who migrated into the lower south.
Subject Heading include:
The Struggle for Racial Integrity 1630-1932