The Story: Antebellum Slavery

"Not far from this time Nat Turner's insurrection broke out; and the news threw our town into great commotion. Strange that they should be alarmed when their slaves were so "contented and happy"!
"The next day, the town patrols were commissioned to search colored people that lived out of the city; and the most shocking outrages were committed with perfect impunity…the day patrol continued for some weeks, and at sundown a night guard was substituted. Nothing at all was proved against the colored people, bond or free. The wrath of the slaveholders was somewhat appeased by the capture of Nat Turner. The imprisoned were released. The slaves were sent to their masters, and the free were permitted to return to their ravaged homes. Visiting was strictly forbidden on the plantations."

Harriet Jacobs, Edenton, N.C.

These restrictive laws were also passed in response to the increase in slave uprisings in nearby states, such as the Nat Turner Rebellion just across the border in Virginia. In 1831, Nat Turner led a group of 75 escaped slaves in an uprising, during which the group killed about 60 white people before being captured by the state militia. Whites in North Carolina were appalled at the thought of a similar rebellion happening in their state, and hoped severe slave laws would prevent such bloody uprisings.