RCC Honors History Project

South Carolina’s Strict Slave Code of 1740

Posted by jas1wills on October 10, 2009

Music was important to the colonial slaves because it offered a kind of universal bond that could be shared, even if a language barrier did exist between them. The power of musical expression can do wonders to the state of the soul or inner being. It can be uplifting and motivating, and even healing if one is suffering emotionally or mentally. Unfortunately, the fears of the slave owners lead to the creation of laws that outlawed the use of “loud instruments”  in order to control what they thought to be secret communications sent out to other slaves for the purpose of “wickedness” (Wood 63).
What is truly amazing is that today, hip-hop music is one of the biggest influences on main-stream music, not only in this country, but around the world as well! Known for its smooth-flowing rhythms, beats and lyrics, hip-hop, to me, echoes the “illegal” activities of slaves in Colonial America who probably just wanted to experience a little joy with friends in a world so full of hopelessness and misery.
In the Full Transcription of 1740 Slave Code Act XXXVI tells about a ban on drums and other instruments. There are also laws mentioned that ban gun use, travel and there was even a kind of “three strikes” law for the striking of a white person by a slave. The third strike meant death, but offending most laws back then often resulted in a similar sentence for a slave (See ACT XXIV for the three “strikes” law).

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