Virginia’s Act XII: Negro Women’s Children to Serve according to the Condition of the Mother

(1662)

In December 1662 the Virginia House of Burgesses met for the second time that year and approved a set of twenty-three statutes that focused on various facets of colonial life. The most infamous of these laws, Act XII: Negro Women’s Children to Serve according to the Condition of the Mother, made the civil status of African and African American slave women inheritable by their offspring. The burgesses, convened by the governor, Sir William Berkeley, and presided over by the speaker, Captain Robert Wynne, acted in response to their perceptions of the colonists’ needs and interests. Other legislation passed during that session included the commission for a new city to be built at Jamestown, various attempts at regulating trade, several taxes and tax reforms, a law aimed at controlling brabbling (squabbling) or gossiping women, and six statutes governing the behavior and status of indentured servants.

The status of Virginia’s unfree laborers, as illustrated by the number of laws...

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Capitol of the Virginia Colony (Library of Congress)

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