A Brief Timeline of Georgia Laws Relating to Slaves, Nominal Slaves, & Free Persons of Color

A Brief Timeline of Georgia Laws Relating to Slaves,
Nominal Slaves and Free Persons of Color

Compiled by Tara D. Fields
February 14, 2004

This document is not meant to be all-inclusive.
This is to be used as a research aid.
Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.

1733 Georgia is founded. Ironically, at the time of Oglethorpe’s landing, there were already slaves in Georgia – brought across the state line from Carolina. Unprepared for the amount of work that awaited the white settlers, Oglethorpe had to look the other way when slaves were used to help clear trees from the site of his settlement. When too many slaves were brought in, Oglethorpe put his foot down and stopped the practice.(2)
1735 Georgia anti-slavery statute passed by British Parliament (some slaves were imported anyway). (2)
1743 Oglethorpe was “run out” of Georgia. (2)
1748 Against the law at the time, Savannah held an open slave auction. (2)
1750 Slavery made legal by British Parliament. (2)
1799 Lewis and China manumitted by their late master, James King.  (Georgia Legislature 1799 Vol 1 Page 23 Sequential # 049)
1799 Silvia and her son David manumitted by their owner Joseph Gabriel Posner.  (GL 1799 Vol 1 Page 148 Sequential # 035)
1801 Lucy Barrot, Betty Barrot, Jim Lary (property of John B. Lary), and Nancy (property of Alexander Kevan), manumitted.
1801 Law enacted banning manumission of negro slaves (or “person of color”). Fine of $200 imposed for each offense. Same law made illegal the recording of manumissions by the Clerk of the Superior Court, or any other Officer of the state. Fine of $100 imposed for each offense.
(GL 1801 Vol 1 Page 71 Sequential # 024)
1815 Act providing for mode of trial of free blacks convicted of crimes (they are to be tried under the same laws as slaves).

[See also 1805 Vol 1 Page 041 Sequential # 041;
1805 Vol 1 Page 063 Sequential # 041;
1806 Vol 1 Page 053 Sequential # 033;
1811 Vol 1 Page 049 Sequential # 008; and
1811 Vol 1 Page 49 Sequential # 008 for details on trials of slaves.

Also, for more information on trials of slaves & free blacks see
1821 Vol 2 Page 122 Sequential # 122;
1837 Vol 1 Page 250 Sequential # 212;
1849 Vol 1 Page 372 Sequential # 465; and
1859 Vol 1 page 129 Sequential # 172 Law # 167.]

(GL 1815 Vol 1 Page 14 Sequential # 009)


Previous Act amended to allow recording of Wills and Testaments that call for manumission of slaves as long as said Will does not have for its object the manumission of slaves only. Parts of the said Will pertaining to the manumission of slaves are to be disregarded. Wills whose sole object is the manumission of a slave or slaves cannot legally be recorded.

(GL 1815 Vol 1 Page 15 Sequential # 010)


An Act to compel owners of old or infirm slaves to maintain them. If owners refuse to care for old or infirm slaves, the Court may sue for the money needed to care for the slave(s).

(GL 1815 Vol 1 Page 35 Sequential # 018)

1817 An Act that prohibited the bringing of slaves into the state.

 Also: “36 Any person, except the owner, beating, whipping, or wounding a slave, or person or persons beating, whipping or wounding a free person of color, without sufficient cause or provocation being first given by such slave or free person of color, may be indicted, and on conviction, shall be fined or imprisoned, or both, at the discretion of the court; and the owner of such slave or the guardian of such free person of color, may, notwithstanding such conviction, recover in a civil suit, damages for the injury done to such slave or free person of color.

37. Any owner or owners of a slave or slaves, who shall cruelly beat such slave or slaves, by unnecessary and excessive whipping, by withholding proper food and sustenance, by requiring greater labor from such slave or slaves than he or she or they are able to perform, by not affording proper clothing, whereby the health of such slave or slaves may be injured and impaired, every such owner or owners, shall, upon sufficient information being laid before the Grand Jury, be, by said Grand Jury, presented, whereupon it shall be the duty of the Attorney or Solicitor General to prosecute said owner or owners, who on conviction, shall be sentenced to pay a fine or be imprisoned, or both, at the discretion of the court.”

(GL 1817 Vol. 1 -- Page: 92 Sequential #: 078)


An Act to require that once a year all free persons of color to register with the clerk of the inferior court of the county in which they reside. Penalty for not registering is possible selling back into slavery.

(GL 1819 Vol 1 Page 41 Sequential # 025)


An Act to emancipate Rachel, slave of the late James Robinson, specifically through an Act.

(GL 1822 Vol 1 Page 83 Sequential # 080)

1823 An Act to emancipate Chloe, slave of the late James Robinson, specifically through an Act.

(GL 1823 Vol 1 Page 146 Sequential # 113)

1826 Law enacted prohibiting the removal of slaves out of Georgia either by land or sea. Also, law states that black seamen from any port (except from South Carolina) are to observe a curfew when in a Georgia port. In addition, the Captain of the vessel must register with the chief magistrate of the city or town and give a bond of $100 for each black seaman.

(GL 1826 Vol 1 Page 161 Sequential # 160)

1827 An act to more effectively enforce the provisions of the previous act. Captains are liable to $100 fine per person omitted to the report the Captain of the vessel makes to the chief magistrate.

(GL 1827 Vol 1 Page 180 Sequential # 147)

1829 Law banning teaching blacks to read or write. Also states that free blacks are not to communicate with free blacks onboard visiting vessels during a 40-day quarantine period. Act goes on to state that only “negroes” or “mulattoes” are subject to this law. Law also makes illegal the circulation of printed material “for the purposes of exciting to insurrection, conspiracy or resistance among the slaves, negroes, or free persons of colour, of this state, against their owners or the citizens of this state.” Last, law repeals Act of 1817 prohibiting the introduction of slaves into the State.

(GL 1829 Vol 1 Page 168 Sequential # 147)

1831 An Act to manumit Sophia, the property of Eli Fenn. She takes the surname Fenn.

(GL 1831 Vol 1 Page 225 Sequential # 174)

1833 An Act to manumit Mary and her child Cordelia, the property, wife and child of Lovewell C. Fluellin, a free man of color.

(GL 1833 Vol 1 Page 289 Sequential # 133)


“SEC. 18. If any person shall teach any slave, negro, or free person of colour, to read or write, either written or printed characters, or shall procure, suffer, or permit, a slave, negro, or person of colour, to transact business for him in writing, such person so offending, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction, shall be punished by fine, or imprisonment in the common jail of the county, or both, at the discretion of the court.

SEC. 19. If any person, owning or having in his possession and under his control any printing press or types in this State, shall use or employ, or permit to be used or employed, any slave or free person of colour, in the setting up of types, or other labour about the office, requiring in said slave or free person of colour, a knowledge of reading or writing, such person so offending, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars.

SEC. 20. If any pedlar or itinerant trader, whether carrying his goods, wares and merchandize, in a wagon or otherwise, shall at any time either buy from or sell to, or otherwise trade with any slave or slaves, unless it be with the permission and in the presence of the owner, overseer, or other person having charge of such slave or slaves; such pedlar or itinerant trader shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on idictment and conviction thereof, shall be fined in a sum not exceeding one thousand dollars, one half to the use of the prosecutor, and the other half to the use of the county where the crime was committed, and the defendant shall stand committed until the fine is paid; and a copy of this section shall be annexed to all licenses granted pedlars.”

(GL 1833 Vol 1 Page 143 Sequential # 099)

1834 An Act to emancipate Sam, the negro slave in response to his actions in extinguishing the fire on the State-house. The Governor was authorized by both branches of the General Assembly to purchase Sam (from John Marler) for the purpose of freeing him.

(GL 1834 Vol 1 Page 229 Sequential # 172)

1834 An Act to emancipate Fanny Hickman, the wife of more than 30 years of Paschal Hickman, and their children John, Grove, Henry, William, Hetty, Eliza, and Frank.

(GL 1834 Vol 1 Page 230 Sequential # 173)

1835 Slaves and free persons of color are prohibited from working (compounding or dispensing medicines) in Druggists and Apothecaries’ stores.

(GL 1835 Vol 1 Page 268 Sequential # 155)

1845 Act that prohibits slaves or free persons of color (mechanics and masons) from making contracts with or working for whites for the erection or repair of buildings.

(GL 1845 Vol 1 page 49 Sequential # 050)

1851 Imposed annual $5.00 per capital tax on all free blacks (white males 21-60 were taxed only 25 cents a year).

(GL 1851 Vol 1 Page 288 Sequential #181 Law # 181)

1852 Imposed annual $5.00 per capital tax on all free blacks (white males 21-60 were taxed only 25 cents a year). Nominal slaves were taxed $150 a month. Owners and those who hire nominal slaves must pay $100 per slave.

(GL 1849 Vol 1 Page 376 Sequential # 472)

1855 An Act of manumit Boston, the slave of E. B. Way, Catharine P. Wheeler, Thomas B. Wheeler, H. R. Wheeler, and Eugene Bacon. Served his master during the war of 1812 and remained in Darien under arms with his master.

(GL 1855 Vol 1 Page 539 Sequential # 537)

1859 An Act to make illegal to free a slave on the death of the master within or without the state. Supreme Court Decision states that a slave can be removed to another state by the executor(s) of the will to be set free providing all estate debts of the late owner have been paid.

(GL 1859 Vol 1 Page 68 Sequential # 093, Law # 091)

1859 An Act to prevent free persons of color from being brought into the state. Penalty is to be sold back into slavery. Those aiding free blacks coming into the state will be fined at least $1,000 and face possible imprisonment. Burden of proof rests on the free black. Free black seamen are exempt from this Act.

(GL 1859 Vol 1 Page 68 Sequential # 093, Law # 094 Law # 92)

1860 “No captain, owner or other person having control of any vessel, steamer, or other water-craft, belonging to or coming from any non-slaveholding State, shall bring into any harbor, river, bay, or creek within the limits of the counties of Camden, Bryan, McIntosh, Glynn, any free negro in any capaciyy (sic) whatever, under the penalty of one hundred dollars for each free negro brought in said counties as aforesaid.”

(GL 1860 Vol 1 Page 154 Sequential # 192 Law # 154)

1860-65 US Civil War
1865 Slavery abolished by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Sources Primary Source: GALILEO: Georgia Legislative Documents on-line at  http://www.galileo.usg.edu/

Secondary Source: Our Georgia History  http://www.ourgeorgiahistory.com/people/oglethorpe.html



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