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Slave Patrols

Slave Patrols

Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas

Sally E. Hadden

ISBN 9780674012349

Publication date: 10/30/2003

Obscured from our view of slaves and masters in America is a critical third party: the state, with its coercive power. This book completes the grim picture of slavery by showing us the origins, the nature, and the extent of slave patrols in Virginia and the Carolinas from the late seventeenth century through the end of the Civil War. Here we see how the patrols, formed by county courts and state militias, were the closest enforcers of codes governing slaves throughout the South.

Mining a variety of sources, Sally Hadden presents the views of both patrollers and slaves as she depicts the patrols, composed of "respectable" members of society as well as poor whites, often mounted and armed with whips and guns, exerting a brutal and archaic brand of racial control inextricably linked to post-Civil War vigilantism and the Ku Klux Klan. City councils also used patrollers before the war, and police forces afterward, to impose their version of race relations across the South, making the entire region, not just plantations, an armed camp where slave workers were controlled through terror and brutality.


  • Sally Hadden…has written the first definitive book on slave patrols… The book studies the roots, rules, procedures, progress, disintegration and legacy of Southern slave patrols during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is the most all-encompassing view of a long overlooked chapter of Southern history.

    —New York Voice


  • Sally E. Hadden is Associate Professor of History at Western Michigan University.

Book Details

  • 360 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press