From 1800 to 1860, Virginia had more slaves than any other state. African enslavement formed the very basis of Virginia’s successful plantation based economy of raising tobacco, and the more infamous cultivation and selling of slaves to states further south for use on rice and cotton plantations.
But during the late summer of 1831, Virginia’s notion of idyllic ante-bellum life came to a bloody halt with the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion. Nat Turner and his collaborators would start a slave uprising in Southampton Virginia that contributed to more deaths than any other slave revolt in United States’ history. Turner’s revolt prompted a dramatic debate in the Virginia General Assembly of 1832 that lead to the enactment of a series of laws to limit the activities of African Americans, both free and enslaved. These laws, historically referred to as “Negro Codes,” included slaves and even free persons of color being highly regulated by an onerous pass system. Continue reading