“Raises provocative and complex questions. How conscientious were authorities in investigating and punishing black-on-black crime? Why have historians practically ignored antebellum free black southerners excepting those accused or convicted of crimes? . . . This book, a worthy addition to the southern history bookshelf, should stimulate similar slavery studies.”
—Journal of American History
"Schwarz provides the reader with thought-provides the reader with thought-provoking ideas as complex and expansive as the title of his book is short and concise. . . . These essays flow together quite smoothly and range from firmly concrete to thoughtfully speculative, providing the reader with great stimulation and offering valuable suggestions for further research on the burgeoning topic of slave law. This is a fine book."
—Eric H. Walther, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
The five essays in Slave Laws in Virginia explore two centuries of the ever-changing relationship between a major slave society and the laws that guided it. The topics covered are diverse, including the African judicial background of African American slaves, Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with the laws of slavery, the capital punishment of slaves, nineteenth-century penal transportation of slaves from Virginia as related to the interstate slave trade and the changing market for slaves, and Virginia’s experience with its own fugitive slave laws. Through the history of one large extended family of ex-slaves, Philip J. Schwarz’s conclusion examines how the law shaped the interaction between former slaves and masters after emancipation.
Instead of relying on a static view of these two centuries, the author focuses on the diverse and changing ways that lawmakers and law enforcers responded to slaves’ behavior and to whites’ perceptions of and assumptions about that behavior.