Virginia Slave Code

(1860)

Audience

The audience for the 1860 Code of Virginia, like any legal code, consisted of judges, attorneys, law enforcement authorities, and anyone who might be a slave owner or involved with the capture of escaped slaves. Beyond the legal community were the people of Virginia. The news of frequent slave conspiracies created a public audience that wanted assurance that the laws would enable authorities to suppress an insurrectionary spirit among the enslaved. Many other people took the opportunity to read at least part of the slave code. Among them could be some free and enslaved African Americans, despite attempts to prevent them from learning how to read.

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Illustration of African Americans escaping from slavery (Library of Congress)

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