Virginia Slave Code


Explanation and Analysis of the Document

The provisions added to the Code of Virginia in 1860 touched on a number of issues. One was the disposition of slaves who were under a sentence of death. A second was the establishment of courts, jails, and other legal apparatus for dealing with slaves. A third called for the breaking up of assemblies of African Americans, which were a source of fear among white Virginians in the climate of the 1850s. A key set of provisions dealt specifically with the issue of runaway slaves. The Virginia legislature also included provisions having to do with the residence of freed blacks in the commonwealth, writings and other activities urging slaves to rebel or escape, and aiding runaway slaves.

Title 10

Chapter XVII The “Executive Functions” law empowered Virginia’s governor to transport slaves convicted of insurrection or other major crimes out of Virginia and the United States. There had to be a conscious decision to transport some enslaved...

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

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