How did the enslavement of Africans affect the slave codes?
Slave codes were a consequence of the enslavement of West African people. They were laws passed in virtually every colony with slaves, and they enforced the legal and social aspects of slavery. Slave codes established enslaved people as property, legally attached to their owners. They generally established slavery as hereditary from one's mother, meaning that the offspring of enslaved mothers and free white men would be slaves. Many slave codes outlined criminal procedures for slaves, who were not allowed to testify in court, and could be convicted and punished without a jury trial. Slave codes underscore the extent to which slavery was an institution based fundamentally on violence, as most offenses by slaves were punished by violence even long after similar punishments were being abandoned for white criminals. Slave codes in most colonies gave masters the power to discipline slaves with impunity. They mandated that enslaved people keep papers when they traveled between plantations or within a town, and in many cases, they banned such activities as private meetings and reading. Slave codes, in short, were the legal foundation for the enslavement of African peoples.