In U.S. history, law governing the status of slaves, enacted by those colonies or states that permitted slavery. Slaves were considered property rather than persons. They had few legal rights: in court, their testimony was inadmissible in cases involving whites; they could make no contract nor own any property; they could not strike a white person, even if attacked by one; they could not be away from their owner's premises without permission; they could not assemble unless a white person was present; they could not be taught to read or write; and they were not permitted to marry. Offenders were subject to severe punishment, including whipping, branding, imprisonment, and death. See also black code.
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