In Colonial times, there was slavery in both North and South. But slavery didn't make much sense in the North; farms were small and the farmer could often handle the work himself. The situation was different in the South. The crops that grew well theretobacco, cotton, rice, and sugardemanded large numbers of field workers. But there were few workers to be haduntil the advent of African slavery.
By 1700 tens of thousands of African-born blacks are living in the American South, and the numbers are fast increasing. In 1705, in Virginia laws are passed that attempt to take away slaves' humanity . The Virginia Black Code says slaves are property, not people . But property that can think means trouble. So laws are passed to try and prevent thinking. One North Carolina law read this way : "The teaching of slaves has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds. Therefore, any free person who shall teach any slave to read and write shall be liable to indictment. If any slave shall teach, or attempt to teach, any other slave, he or she shall receive thirty-nine lashes on his or her bare back."
When you do something you know is wrong, you usually try to convince yourself that it really is all right. Southerners begin to say that God created some people to be slaves and some to be masters. They say black people aren't as smart as white people . Then, to make that true, they pass laws that say it is a crime to teach blacks to read and write. One white woman in Norfolk, Virginia, who teaches free blacks in her home, is arrested and put in jail. Whites are losing their freedom too.