In this section, I will examine how the basic differences in the developments of slavery in North Carolina and its neighboring states impacted legal treatment of slaves. The main two categories that interest me here are the court practices slaves were allowed to partake in, and the establishment of slave codes. While North Carolina may have started as a more lenient legal system for slaves, future laws mirrored those of neighboring states.
Above image citation (4).
NC Slave Justice
Like many southern colonies, slaves in North Carolina "had no way to legally protest their masters’ harsh treatment and abuse" (2). However, slaves in North Carolina were sent to court for their most serious offenses, unlike other neighboring Southern colonies where even such slave courts did not exist. In these slave courts, slave were tried for serious offenses without representation and without the presence of a jury. Hence, "96 percent of North Carolina slaves tried were convicted" of those tried in slave courts (2). However, these slave courts are unique in that they show slaves had some legal bearing instead of being fully subject to the will of their master.
North Carolina Slave Codes
"North Carolina Slave Code of 1715, required slaves to carry a ticket from their master whenever they left the plantation," as well as required whites to capture runaway slaves and prevented slaves from gathering in groups (1). In 1741, a new set of laws emerged preventing "slaves from raising their own livestock and from carrying guns without their master’s permission...also limited manumission" to county court approval and allowed runaways to be killed if they did not surrender (1). While these laws became more similar to those implemented in South Carolina, North Carolina laws still subject slaves to some form of court approval and justice.
South Carolina Slave Codes
In comparison to the North Carolina Slave Codes, the South Carolina Slave Code of 1740 held much harsher punishment plans and was more similar in nature to Barbados slave codes (3). This slave code was the first to "prohibit slaves from gathering without white supervision, learning to read and write, and growing their own food" (3). Interestingly, North Carolina followed suit after these slave codes were declared and implemented a more strict slave code in 1741.