slave patrols


The slave patrols (1704-1865) in the American South were armed bands of three to six white men on horseback who rode through the night looking for runaway slaves and other blacks up to no good.

  • Manpower: three to six white men
  • Weapons: guns, whips
  • Transport: horses
  • Range: a beat about ten miles wide (16km)
  • Hours of operation: mainly at night
  • Duties:
    • Stop blacks and ask for their pass
    • Catch runaways
    • Enforce curfew
    • Break up gatherings of blacks
    • Disarm blacks
    • Search homes for guns and books, both signs of a possible uprising
    • Keep blacks in line through terror

If they stopped you and you could not produce a pass from your master, they could kill you, whip you or physicially screw you up. And even if you did have a pass and were doing nothing wrong, they might still choose to beat you up.

The point was not so much to…

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