V is for a Virginia Slave Law

Based on the age of Blair Underwood’s ancestor, and the age of the slaves, it was believed that the slaves were likely his parents or other relatives.

The one television program the Daughter and I watch together is an NBC show called Who Do You Think You Are? It involves stars looking back at their genealogy. An episode we saw recently featured actor Blair Underwood, which I hope you can find here or here or here at the third notch 21 minutes in, with him walking down the steps.

What Underwood discovers is that one of his ancestors at the end of the 18th century, Samuel Scott, actually owns property in Virginia. He is distressed, though, to discover that Scott also owns two slaves! Well, until the researcher he is with explains to him the Virginia Slave Law of 1806 [Shepherd, Statutes at Large, III, 252; passed January 25, 1806]: “The General Assembly moved to remove the free Negro population from Virginia with a law that stated that all emancipated slaves, freed after May 1, 1806, who remained in the Commonwealth more than a year, would forfeit his right to freedom and be sold by the Overseers of the Poor for the benefit of the parish. Families wishing to stay were to petition the legislature through the local county court.”

This was known as a manumission law by which someone who was a free black could be enslaved, or re-enslaved. Based on the age of Scott, the ancestor, and the age of the slaves, it was believed that the slaves were likely his parents or other relatives, protected by the “peculiar institution” rather than being forced to leave the state, or worse.
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It appears that modern-day Virginia is now involved with a new Jim Crow attitude:

Virginia knows it has DNA evidence that may prove the innocence of dozens of men convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Men just like [Bennett] Barbour. So why won’t the state say who they are?

“Bennett Barbour was convicted in 1978 of a rape he didn’t commit…The Commonwealth of Virginia learned that Bennett Barbour was innocent nearly two years ago when DNA testing cleared him of the crime. Virginia authorities, however, never informed Barbour of his innocence.” An irritating story.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10