Virginia Slave Acts

CODEX Entry 2110: Virginia Slave Acts


Mulatto offspring of the slave and her owner had the same legal rights as the mother. Therefore, the killing of a mulatto by his owner was not considered a felony. The killing of another man’s mulatto worker required compensation, but no jail term. White relatives could overturn wills which declared property to a mulatto son, even when expressly requested by the father.

In the 1822 Virginia Law, the racial definition of a mulatto was extended, so that citizens were defined as a black if they had one black grandparent. In 1910 this was raised from one quarter to one sixteenth. The One Drop Rule was codified into law in the 1924 Racial Integrity Act, rendering anyone with any black ancestry whatsoever as black under the law. Other states passed similar laws around the same time¹. A mulatto now being defined as a black meant disenfranchisement, anti-miscegenation, and segregation.

The first quote is from the Virginia Slave Act of December 1662 – 14th Charles II, 2:170, Act XII; the second from the Virginia Slave Code of 1705, Article 374; and the third from the Virginia Slave and Indenture Laws October 1669 – 21st Charles II, 2:270, Act I².




¹ Brendan Wolfe, Racial Integrity Laws (1924–1930)
² Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large, vol. 1