antebullum id genealogies of identification and registration
Date Antebellum ID: Genealogies of identification and registration
According to the insight from the reading, mobility was seen as a threat since it was considered as the key opportunity to escaping and everyday survival for the black slaves. However, it was the source of power for integrating and maintaining familial ties between slaves thus developing resistance. On the contrary, stealing was rampant due to mobility and this activity was the most common among other illegal activities. Goods that were normally stolen by the free and captive Africans Americans were food, liquor, livestock or cloth. Mobility was normally seen as a threat by planters since they were being murdered when the slaves wanted to escape and also encountered persistent resistance in re-expropriation of their properties and theft.
On the other hand, the mobility threat was eventually neutralized regardless of some few hindrances encountered. Moreover, slave patrols were invented as a new system of controlling black people’s mobility. Slaves were issued with slave pass that they were to carry with them while abroad at night and produce them to patrollers along the way. The written pass was issued by the slave’s masters clearly indicating permission of movement. It was further considered as a crime when a slave could be found without a pass card. For instance from the reading, Francis Fredric who was a former slave described the patrol customs in Virginia that during the New year’s day, ten white men would be chosen and sworn in at the court house as patrollers, then they could be delegated duty of going to the negroes cabin to search for the slave without the pass or permit from their masters. Also, Francis further narrates that if any slaves were found without a pass card, they were brought out and be punished by being stripped besides the main function of patrollers was surveillance and corporal punishment. For example, lawmakers of South Carolina decreed that “it shall not be lawful for any negroe or negroes, or other slave to travel or go abroad from his or her master or mistress house in the night time, between sunsetting and sunrising, or in the day time without a note from his master or mistress or overseer”. This clearly indicated how patrols and slave cards were in full control of mobility. Furthermore, a new system of controlling mobility threat was invented and it was considered to be a tamper-proof technology. This was a system of slave metal ‘tags’ or ‘slave hire badge’ that was introduced to the urban slaves and it indicated their relevant information. This system was adopted in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1973.
Basically, slave pass which was the modern ID, identification and slave patrols were the main systems used to control threat of slave mobility by installing disciplines to the slaves. However, a slave could not be permitted to move without producing a pass otherwise he/she could be punished. These methods contributed to disciplinary power since a slave could not escape easily or conduct theft moreover resistance was also curbed. IDs imposed a restriction of integration of slaves whereby if a slave from another plantation could be found in a different plantation by a slave patroller without a written pass, eventually he could be punished while identification of master’s enabled slave patrollers to identify the slave was not a runaway, and thus the knowledge of identifying master’s name ensured against fraud.
In conclusion, the aim of planters trying to control mobility was hindered by some difficulties like antebellum hackers. These were the slaves who could read and write and thus be able to crack the codes of the planter’s security systems. On the other hand, identification was made difficult when naming was made a site of resistance. It is described that mothers could give the children distinct names so as to keep truck of them. The most common challenge encountered was forgery of the pass that was mainly done by the literate slaves who stole knowledge since they were not allowed to get an education.
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