Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History

Source Information

Virginia Commonwealth Causes (Accomack County), 1815-1863 (Library of Virginia African American Narratives project)

Laws and Legislation • 308 Records • Uploaded October 29, 2021 • Data Website: www.virginiamemory.com

Commonwealth causes are criminal court cases filed by the state government that consist primarily of warrants, summons, subpoenas, indictments, recognizances, and verdicts handed down by juries and other legal authorities in order to prosecute individuals who violated the penal code. Commonwealth causes commonly found in Virginia Untold include cases against enslavers who permitted enslaved people to travel as a free persons without permission or permitting a gathering of enslaved people on their property. White Virginians and legislators feared insurrection and passed laws restricting the number of Black people allowed to gather in groups. Other cases found in this collection might include crimes committed by both enslaved and free Black people such as breaking and entering, stealing, assault, murder, arson, and aiding enslaved people to run away. Free Black men and women could also be tried for remaining in the Commonwealth more than one year following emancipation. In 1806, the General Assembly passed a law stating that all formerly enslaved people freed after May 1, 1806, were required to leave the Commonwealth. Those who remained in the Commonwealth more than a year could be put on trial by the state, and if found guilty, would be re-enslaved and sold. The proceeds from the sale went to the state treasury, and often, records of those sales can be found in the Public Claims records from the Auditor of Public Accounts.

This source (and description) was extracted from data provided under Creative Commons from the Library of Virginia’s VIRGINIA UNTOLD: THE AFRICAN AMERICAN NARRATIVE project. The Library’s African American Narrative project aims to provide greater accessibility to pre-1865 African American history and genealogy found in the rich primary sources in its holdings.

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Fields Included

The list below shows the data fields included in this source. If a field is marked as Indexed, it is searchable.

  • File Name
  • Year
  • Defendant First Name Indexed
  • Defendant Middle Name Indexed
  • Defendant Surname Indexed
  • Defendant Alias Indexed
  • Defendant Status Indexed
  • Additional Defendant Indexed
  • Slave Owners Indexed
  • Charge Indexed
  • Sentence Indexed
  • Additional Slave Names Indexed
  • Additional Free Black Names Indexed
  • Deponents/Affiants Indexed
  • Additional Information Indexed
  • See Also Indexed
  • Processor's Notes Indexed
  • EAD
  • Locality Indexed
  • Source Indexed
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