Black History Month 2022


Chattel Slavery

British Virginia - The first enslaved Africans arrived in the British Colony of VIrigina in 1619.

First Use of Race in Law

Jamestown, Virginia - Race was used for the first time in law. Hugh Davis, a white male, had sex with a black woman. The penalty was whipping of Hugh Davis in front of black people and whites. No penalty was stated for the black woman.

Nat Turner Uprising Began

Southampton (likely), Virginia - Nat Turner began an uprising against whites. Not much was recorded about the incident, at the time.

It is believed more than 55 whites died as a result. The uprising was stopped. Turner was caught after six (6) weeks in hiding. He and 16 of his followers were hanged, in Jerusalem, Virginia.

Dred Scott Case Decided

Washington, D. C. - Dred Scott v. Sandford was decided, by the United States Supreme Court. Sandford was a clerical error on the case. The real name was Sanford.

Dred Scott was born in 1799, in Virginia, enslaved. Scott's enslaver was Peter Blow. In 1818, Blow moved to Huntsville, Alabama. He took Scott and five (5) other enslaved people with him. Blow farmed, with Scott, until 1830.

In 1830, Blow moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Blow sold Scott to U.S. Army surgeon, Dr. John Emerson. Emerson sent Scott to Fort Armstrong, in Illinois. At the time, Illinois was a 'free' state.

Illinois had no law for slavery, in its state constitution. Yet, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made slave catching legal in 'free' states. This gave whites the power to enslave 'free' blacks and send them to slave states. 'Free' states never punished slave owners in its borders.

In 1836, Emerson moved. He took Scott, to Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin territory (now Minnesota). It was a 'free' territory. There, Scott married Harriet Robinson. She was enslaved, to a different white man.

On February, 1838, Emerson was sent to Fort Jesup in Louisiana. There, Emerson married Eliza Irene Sanford. Scott and Robinson stayed in the Wisconsin territory. Emerson hired out their services while he was away.

In Louisiana, Emerson sent for Scott and Robinson. On the way, Robinson gave birth to Eliza. Eliza was born on the Mississippi River, in 'free' territory. It is unclear how Emerson enslaved Robinson.

In late 1838, Emerson returned to Fort Snelling. In 1840, Sanford took Scott and Robinson to St. Louis, Missouri.

By 1843, Emerson had left the army. He died in Iowa territory. Sanford, his wife, inherited his entire estate. This included Scott and Robinson.

In 1846, Scott tried to buy his family's freedom from Sanford, but she refused. Scott went to court. Since Scott's family had been in 'free' areas, he said they should be free.

The United States Supreme Court ruled against Scott. They ruled only whites were United States citizens. Black people, free or not, were subjects of white rule. Enslaved black people were merchandise. No black person, mulatto, nor Indian was a citizen.

The court hoped to settle the slave question. Instead, it set the stage for the American Slavery War (1861-1865).


Full Dred Scott Decision & Opinions

John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) - On Sunday night, John Brown, and his party, seized the Federal armory, in Harper's Ferry. It had a substantial arms supply. At least 20 men took part in the raid. Most were white men.

Sundary, October 16th, 11 p.m., Brown began his raid. It started well. They freed a number of slaves and cut the telegraph lines into the town. The group ran into Heyward Shepherd, a 'free' black man. He was a baggage handler for the railroad.

Heyward was told to stop. Instead, he headed back to the station. Brown's men shot him in the back. Pro-slavers regarded Heyward as a hero.

A white doctor heard the gunshot. He came to see what happened. Brown saw the doctor and let him leave. After the doctor left, he raised an alarm. Church bells were rung in the town. Later, he went to another town to tell of the raid.

Brown sent men to get help from nearby plantations. He wanted black men. Only a handful joined. With his group, Brown took at least 60 hostages, in town. The 10 most important were kept in the engine house, of the railroad.

Monday, October 17th, 1:15 a.m., the evening train was stopped. It was held for five (5) hours. Brown went on the train. He talked with passengers for an hour. The passengers were allowed into town to stay at a hotel.

At 7 a.m., the train got to the first telegraph. At 10:30 a.m., the military was sent word of Brown's raid.

Between 11 a.m. and evening, local militia units formed. Several companies of men arrived in Harper's Ferry. Most were drunk and disorderly. There was enough control to surround Brown's men.

The militia killed Dangerfield Newby. He was an ex-slave in Brown's group. Newby's corpse was mutilated, by the militia. His testicles and ears were cut off. The militia kept them as souvenirs.

By the time the military arrived, most of the hostages were freed. Brown only held about 10. They were held in the engine house, of the railroad.

On Tuesday, October 18th, the raid ended. Colonel Robert E. Lee and the military captured Brown.

On December 2nd, 1859, John Brown was hanged. Shields Green, who escaped slavery, and the 'free' man, John Copeland, were hanged. John Brown's wife was allowed to take his body back to New York. The bodies of the two black men were sold to white medical students.

The Vagrancy Act of 1866

Richmond, Virginia - The General Assembly of Virginia passed the Vagrancy Act of 1866. It was an attempt to re-enslave black people after the Slavery (Civil) War. The all-white government of Virginia made it a crime if an adult had no job.

On January 24, 1866, Alfred H. Terry commanded the U. S. Army in Virginia. He made a proclamation that forbade the law from being enforced, in the state.

The actions of the General Assembly led to Reconstruction of the South. It was clear white, defeated Southerners had no intention to obey Federal laws after the Slavery war. At least, this was the case when it came to black people.


Vagrancy Act Full Transcript

Vagrancy Act of 1866

Background - Vagrancy Act of 1866

Carter G. Woodson Born

New Canton, Virginia - Carter G. Woodson was born to Anne Eliza (Riddle) and James Henry Woodson. Both his parents were born into slavery. Woodson was an American historian, author, and journalist.

Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He was one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora. His work in American history recognized black Americans as more than subjects of white supremacy.

In 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week. It preceded Black History Month.