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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

  • Theme > Slavery and Abolition (x)
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Colonial Virginia Laws on Slavery and Servitude

From the earliest days of the Virginia colony, laws governing the ownership of slaves were put in place to define the legal status of slaves and their masters and regulate interactions between them. In this series of laws dating from 1639 to 1705, [...]

Chief Justice Taney's Majority Opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, Supreme Court judges considered two key questions: did the citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply to African-Americans, and could Congress prohibit slavery in new states? The first excerpt below addresses [...]

Slave Laws in British Colonial New York, 1664—1731

As the population of enslaved Africans grew, colonial elites in New York passed laws to restrict the activities and movements of black residents. These laws were similar to laws passed in Virginia and Maryland, indicating that white fears of slave [...]

An Indentured Servant Testifies About the Existence of a Slave Conspiracy in New York

In 1741, a series of fires broke out in Manhattan, the most serious of which was within the walls of the governor's home in Fort George. After a slave was seen fleeing the site of one of the fires, rumors of a "Negro conspiracy" soon swept the city [...]

Selections from Alabama's Laws Governing Slaves

While slaveholders defended slavery as a benign system, this selection of laws, on the books in Alabama in 1833, suggest that slaves themselves were finding many ways to resist and escape it. Whites became particularly concerned about slave [...]

Runaway Slave Laws in Border States, 1794-1846

Every southern state passed laws, sometimes called slave codes, to restrict the activities of African Americans and to prevent slave rebellions. White lawmakers in slave-holding border states, such as Maryland and Kentucky, were particularly [...]