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.
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

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

24 thoughts on “V is for a Virginia Slave Law”

  1. Being an amateur genealogist myself, I enjoy the UK version of Who Do You Think You Are? Olympic gold medalist, 2012 organiser and politician, Sebastian Coe, was taken aback to learn of his connection to slavery in Jamaica and North Carolina through family connections.

    Interesting fact: slavery was not abolished by law in the UK until 2010!

  2. It is not only irritating, it is downright insulting and criminal not to inform Barbour of his innocence.
    We have a similar program in The Netherlands.It is very interesting!
    Have a great week, Roger!

  3. It is outrageous that he wasn’t informed of his innocence. The way DNA has proved people innocent is to me a compelling argument to outlaw capital punishment. I am against it anyway but especially now that there is proof of innocent people being convicted of serious crimes makes the argument against it clear to me.

  4. Your post really starts my blood boiling.
    I just don’t understand not informing Barbour of his innocence.
    On a happier note, I too enjoy Who do you think you are?
    Its fascinating and I did see the one you mentioned. Wish I had the finances to delve into my history.

  5. Did you know that there was an “underground railway” to Canada that helped slaves escape? Our students learn about it in elementary school by studying its history and reading novels about children escaping with their families. Slavery goes back hundreds of years to areas in the world outside of the States, where it finally ended up in such tragedy. I’m appalled that its effects are still being felt today.

  6. Well, it’s just plain wrong, wrong, WRONG to not inform someone that he/she is now known to be innocent.

    I think it’s amazing how much DNA can tell us and that it can be used to clear people’s names.

  7. Genealogy is fascinating to me. I’ve dabbled in it a bit, relying mainly on research from other relatives. It’s addictive.

  8. Hello Roger,
    We like to watch that show too.
    I have always been appalled by slavery and will never understand the laws of men. What’s worse is that slavery in many forms STILL exists today all over the world. To not inform someone of his/her innocence is just unfathomable…proving man’s justice is at times really injustice.
    Thanks for sharing & visiting.

    Voice In The Wind

  9. Genealogy fascinates me, I’m in the middle of tracing my father’s family in India, it’s hard as we lost contact after my father died years ago.

  10. it’s tragic when an innocent person is convicted of a crime, more especially when he was not informed by the authorities.

    my aunt and i have been in tracing our roots and it’s fascinating and intriguing. by the way, i like Blair Underwood, he’s cute.:p

  11. I was thinking of using vintage for vintage people, but I thought I better now. In fact these old people are very proud that are so vitage. Bill is in his 90s. and still playng tennis. Wow!!!

    I love CSI and criminal mind. Makes me a cyber expert. LOL

  12. Some story! Haven’t watched the show, but sounds really interesting, AND a great show to watch with your kids.

  13. Haven’t watch the show, now I have to look for that and see some interesting stories.

    Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

  14. Genealogy sometime reveals also rather funny things ! My aunt married an American in 1951 and moved from Germany to Madison Wisc. My uncle loved genealogy and you know what he discovered …. that the great great grandfathers of both of them were brothers !!! One remained in Germany the other immigrated to the States. Isn’t that a coincidence ?

  15. Unbelievable that they wouldn’t inform someone that they’ve established his innocence. Of course, he knows he’s innocent, but no one believes him. What a strange place Virginia must be.
    As I’m always saying, the present government of Canada is very backward-looking in many matters, and, for all I know, might be planning to reinstate slavery if the wealthy Big Business owners don’t get enough tax breaks to make them happy.

  16. Very interesting (and disturbing) post. The Manumission law and Barbour’s story are sad evidence that mankind has a way to go to achieve a just world.

  17. I really love doing geneology–it does take a lot of time and detailed work. What a sad story to uncover–does make for an interesting program.

  18. I’m glad that human rights give all of us freedom to live our lives the way we want. But I think we are enslaved in other ways.
    Genealogy fascinates me. A very interesting post for the V prompt.
    Here’s mine La Vie En Rose

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