Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
|Creator||The Virginia General Assembly|
|Context||A system of race-based slavery was emerging in Virginia.|
|Purpose||To establish new laws|
For much of the seventeenth century, Chesapeake tobacco planters relied on the labor of indentured servants—poor people who labored for several years to pay the cost of their passage across the Atlantic. Africans formed part of that labor force, but many of them became free, and some owned land and the labor of indentured servants.
By the 1660s, whites began to switch to a system of life-long slavery restricted to people of African descent. By the 1680s, they had created a separate legal code for African Americans and passed laws stipulating that blacks would ordinarily be enslaved for life and could not own Christian servants. Mixed-race children, whose fathers were usually white, inherited their mother's status. The Virginia Slave Code from 1705, a portion of which is reproduced here, elaborated on those earlier laws.