Slave patrol

Slave patrol

Slave patrols (called patrollers, pattyrollers or paddy rollers by the slaves) were organized groups of three to six white men who enforced discipline upon black slaves during the antebellum U.S. southern states. They policed the slaves on the plantations and hunted down fugitive slaves. Patrols used summary punishment against escapees, which included maiming or killing them. Beginning in 1704 in South Carolina, slave patrols were established and the idea spread throughout the southern states.

Slave patrols began with colonial attempts to regulate slavery through laws that limited enslaved people's abilities and required all settlers to assist in enforcing the slave codes. As the population of black slaves increased, so did the fear and threat of foreign invasion which further increased the institution of slave patrols. Encountered slaves without passes were expected to be returned to their owners, and sometimes punished. As this approach became more ineffective, Slave patrols were formally established. Slave patrols consisted of white men from all social classes. This caused trouble for both enslaved and free black people as it restricted their movement. Black people were subjected to question, searches, and other forms of harassment, often leading to whippings and beatings for people who may not have broken any law. Many duties of the slave patrols included "apprehending runaways, monitored the rigid pass requirements for blacks traversing the countryside, broke up large gatherings and assemblies of blacks, visited and searched slave quarters randomly, inflicted impromptu punishments, and as occasion arose, suppressed insurrections." [Hadden] . During these times, slaves were often neglected and mistreated despite having permission to travel.

Slave owners feared slave gatherings would allow them to trade or steal goods and the potential for a rebellion. South Carolina and Virginia selected patrols from state militias. Slave patrols were often equipped with guns and whips and would exert brutal and racially motivated control. At times African Americans developed many methods of challenging slave patrolling, occasionally fighting back violently. The Civil War developed more opportunities for resistance against slave patrols and made it easier for enslaved people to escape.

Fugitive Slave Laws

The Fugitive Slave Laws helped enforced the necessity for slave patrols in order to abide by the law. Although initially these laws were created to keep tensions low between the north and the south, it caused the physical formation of slave patrols [Campbell] . In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was a vital document that enabled slaves to become free once crossing into Free states [Emancipation Proclamation] . This helped limit the role of slave patrols/catchers and changed the war. Another form of help for slaves was the Underground Railroad which aided slaves in their escape to northern states. The use and physical formation of slave patrols came to its end in 1865 when the Civil War ended. This end however is linked to post civil war groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which continued to terrorize and threaten the black community [Hadden] .

External links

* [ Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, "Review of Sally E. Hadden - Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas" Economic History Services, Jul 22, 2002]
* [,20812,669680,00.html Time Warner Unchained Memories: Readings From the Slave Narratives]


Sally E. Hadden, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.>Sally E. Hadden. “Slave Patrols.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 14 May, 2003.University of Georgia Press. 15 March,2008., Stanley W. The Slave Catchers; Enforcement of the Fugitive Salve Law, 1850-1860. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 1970.Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863; Presidential Proclamations, 1791-1991; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives.

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