Hi everyone. Recently, I’ve been researching the topic of slave patrols. It’s a topic I’m discussing in a seminar my group and I are participating in. Our driving question for the seminar is “Are we Doomed to Repeat History?” For this think and create post, I decided I’d discuss slave patrols because A) It will deepen my and your understanding of history and how it effects our world today and B) I can link this post to my seminar post so if readers want to know more about the topics I discuss, they can read this post.
In 1619, hundreds of Africans were kidnapped and put on ships to what is now Virginia. They were sold off, and became enslaved to many white people living in the south. They worked on plantations, and the plantation owners would often rape and whip the enslaved. Some slaves were forced to whip other slaves, even their own family. The way the enslaved were treated was beyond horrible. On a typical plantation, slaves worked ten or more hours a day. At harvesting time, they were required to stay in the fields for even longer, up to 16 hours a day.
As slave societies became more popular, slave patrols and slave catchers became a form of force in the south. Slave patrols were untrained white men in charge of keeping tabs on where the enslaved were. That meant if black men or woman were off the plantation, the slave patrol could demand to see their slave badge AND they could search anyone’s belongings, just because. Obviously this came with a lot of violence, and fear in the enslaved. The powers that be began passing laws that restricted the enslaved, but found the laws on their own were insufficient. Any adult white man was authorized to enforce those laws, becoming the body called slave patrol. Slave catchers are pretty self explanatory. They were people who returned escaped slaves to their owners. The slave catchers affected non runaway slaves too. They were constantly oppressing and scaring the enslaved to instill a fear in them so they wouldn’t run away. The slave patrollers were free to use any form of weapon to make sure the enslaved were returned to their owners.
In the 1700s, the South became more industrialized, and there was a growth in slaves in the southern cities. This caused the slave patrols to expand from just remote farm lands of America to busy cities. They then became professionalized once in the city, and very quickly, their duties expanded. They became a force that we immediately recognize, the modern police force. This first police force was overwhelmingly white, male and didn’t really focus on responding to crime. They wanted to make sure the enslaved felt oppressed, and that is what they did.
To this day, America uses law enforcement that stems from a system that was created with the goal of keeping entire populations of black men and women enslaved. There was never a chain broken of slave patrol to modern police, it just evolved and is what we see now a days. Although slavery is abolished, the spirit of tracking and policing black Americans, had continued. The system has been poked at and changed, but never been redone. In the media we see so many murders of black Americans like George Floyd, and the murderers aren’t just Americans, they’re police. They’re the people with the power. They don’t just have the system on their side, they ARE the system. They are the people we are supposed to trust, and call for help, but how do we expect all black people to trust a system that was built of their oppression.
The evolution of slave patrols to modern police is undeniable. The least we can do is educate ourselves, and thats why I wrote this. If you’re like me, you’d never heard of slave patrols until recently. I find that insane as it’s so connected to such a large and well discussed force (police) in America. I hope this blog post taught you something. Protest, talk, educate, donate, do anything you can to help stop police brutality.