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2016: How Far Back Will the Dial Go?

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2016: How Far Back Will the Dial Go?

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1700: Pennsylvania legalizes slavery

1705: Virginia Slave Code codifies slave status, defining slaves as real estate

1708: Rhode Island requires slave accompanied by masters when visiting free persons

The enforcement of these laws weren’t only subjected to blacks, but also to anyone within the context of the legal binding of each Act, who broke them, including the white Americans who took ownership to the enslaved as well as free blacks at the time.  These were state-wide laws, signed and delivered, governed and enforced, that provided measures for punishment whenever they weren’t followed, such as taxes, fines, loss of property, and in some cases imprisonment.


“Radcliffe College Monographs” Volumes 1-4, Ginn and Company, 1888, page 98

1711: Pennsylvania prohibits importation of blacks and Indians

1711: Rhode Island prohibits clandestine importation of blacks and Indians

1712: Pennsylvania prohibits importation of slaves

1715: Rhode Island legalizes slavery

1715: Maryland declares slaves entering the province, and their descendants slaves for life

1717: New York enacts Fugitive Slave Law

1735: Georgia prohibits importation and use of black slaves

1735: Georgia petitions Britain for the legalization of slavery

1738: Georgia’s Trustees permit the importation of slaves

1740: Negro Act of 1740 passed in South Carolina, prohibiting slaves to earn money, assemble and write English

1740: Georgia now permits importation of black slaves

1751: George II repeals 1705 Virginia act deeming slaves as real estate

By this time in history, the slave trade had begun to take an interesting turn and it was reflected in the laws passed in the early 1700s.  Several slave rebellions had already taken place in the Americas and West Indies, as many blacks began to revolt against the inhumane restraints placed against their human liberties.  By 1708, blacks outnumbered whites in South Carolina, making it the first black majority in an English Colony.  In 1731, the First Maroon War took place in Jamaica between Jamaican Maroons and British Colonials, with the Maroons gaining success in their revolt.  In the Danish West Indies around 1733, King June from Ghana led a revolt on the Coral Bay Plantation in St. John.  Cato’s rebellion also took place in South Carolina in 1739.  The tides were changing as institutionalized societal controls that had stood on legal pillars were gradually being threatened by the need for liberty and freedom.  Interestingly enough, the tides had also begun to change around the world, as the principles of liberty everywhere and for everyone, in all dynamics were beginning to come into question.  The status quo of control in all societies where such measures had been taken to exploit labor and liberty to whatever degree, witnessed protest from those it wished to control.

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Akindele Decker is a Sierra Leonean poet and writer with ancestral links across West Africa and the other side of the Atlantic. He resides in Maryland, USA with his family.

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