Friday, January 23, 2009

South Carolina Slavery Laws

It's nearly impossible to write about the old south without including slavery somewhere in the story. It was part of their culture, a fact of life. The problem is, when you actually research it, the process of what you learn can be painful. 


I hadn't planned to write my current story, Beloved Liberty, but I stumbled upon a court document while researching my own family history and it got me to wondering. My ancestor, Elijah Hudson, was the first person recorded in Darlington County, SC to emancipate his slave, Ben, in 1810. 

Why would he have to go to court to prove the competency of his slave before he could be released as a free colored in society? Why wouldn't an owner be allowed to release his slave if he wanted to? And why would my ancestor only release one? What was special about this one slave that made him want to give him his freedom and not release the others? There was a story here.


I may never know the real story of why, my ancestor did what he did, but I created a story centered around what he did. I gave him a strong motivation, created characters that love and support him, and other characters who are angry and resent his decision and try to stop him. 

This is the story of Beloved Liberty. It's a story about freedom--not just freedom from slavery, but my heroine experiences a freedom in Christ--free of societal expectations, while my hero experiences a freedom in Christ to forgive others and he learns that it isn't his place to make everything "right". 


In my research for this book I discovered why my ancestor had to take his case to court in order to free his slave. Some slaveholders would free troublesome, old, or sickly blacks who became community burdens. As a result, the legislature required the approval of a commission for any future emancipations, and by 1820, slaves could only be freed by an act of the legislature.

For further reading, and a list of these laws and when they were passed, see the website below.


South Carolina Slave Laws Summary and Record
http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/geography/slave_laws_SC.htm

10 comments:

What an interesting post, Jennifer. So, the slaveholders would release the old, sick, and troublesome slaves because they didn't want to take care of them. Just another notch in the abomination slavery was. I wonder if the laws were similar in Maryland. I've seen some documents where a slave's name was listed as freed.

Very interesting! I was just doing some reading about the three-fifths compromise the other day. It's amazing to think that a compromise was made to declare slaves 3/5 of a human being. Wow.

How interesting about your family history!

Jennifer the books sounds wonderful - I love the development idea for the main character.

Blessings for all of your projects!
Jill

It will be interesting to read your story on this, especially knowing how much research and effort you've poured into it.

I'd often wondered why the North abolished slavery and the South hung on to it like a life line. Why was one part of the country so very ardently against slavery and the other thrived on it?

A recent trip to Liberia, Africa, (Liberia had been purchased from the tribal people by the United States government for the redeemed slaves some 40 years before the Civil War) prompted me to research it...What I discovered was very interesting and I’m every so glad I did…I got my best answer from a wonderful and informative movie called "A More Perfect Union." I think you'd enjoy it.

lisa

We're blessed for we are in this point of time when slavery is not applicable in our society. Whenever we look back the past, although there's pain, but the lessons we gathered to never walk those nasty paths again help us to treasure more on what we have now in life. Best wishes, thanks for sharing such an insightful post.

Jennifer, How cool that you got your story from some family history! I can't wait to read it!

Rita, I believe the laws were similar in the southern states, but there were some differences. For example,one movie I saw indicated that it was against the law to teach a slave to read and write, but I can't find that law here in the Carolinas so I'm not sure if that existed in some other state or not. There are some references that show slave owners educating their slaves.

We had a lot of Quakers in Greensboro, NC who would buy slaves, teach them a trade and then free them after they were skilled enough to support themselves. It was a ministry for the Quakers. My mother's family line were Quakers, but my father's family line were slave owners. But based on court records and church records, my family defended them in court, tried to minister to them through church and didn't believe in mistreating them or separating children from their mothers.

Nicole, When I read that on the 3/5 of a human being compromise, my heart grieved. I saw one reference where a man tried to say that it was okay to sell the slave children and separate them from their parents--that they didn't have feelings for their babies the way whites did. How could they have been so mean and cold? Some thought of them as no more than animals--and its an abomination.

Jill, Lisa, Ching and Terri,

Thank you. I hope you do get a chance to read it. I'm thinking of writing a series on the Quakers in the NC Piedmont where I grew up. It will be historical of course, but I'd like to show the contribution and risks they took in helping free the slaves and the impact they made in their community.

Hi Jennifer -

When I read posts like yours, I realize there is much I don't know about that time period. Thanks for telling us about your special "what if" scenario.

It sounds like a fascinating book.

Blessings,
Susan :)