The Patrols Enforced the Slave Anti-Literacy Laws and the Anti-Gathering Laws
Patrols Also Searched for Passes
from the book:
The true work of the patrols was done, however, in the countryside. Patrols stopped blacks on the roads, monitored the woods and cypress swamps, checked the train tracks and searched the homes of slaves. The patrols broke up gatherings deemed to be “unlawful assemblies.”
The patrols would also search the slaves’ cabins for passless boyfriends and husbands, guns, bullets, shot, knives or other weapons, and for other contraband, defined to include any written note or document of any kind. The patrols looked for unlawful assemblies - prayer meetings, get togethers, parties, hiding spots - broke them up, and imposed whippings as punishment.
Who were the patrollers? They were “non-slaveholders, small farmers, merchants, professional men, mechanics, overseers, and others.” The patrols were made of armed men with revolvers and rifles, on horseback, accompanied by dogs, and carrying “great big torches of fire.”
Aside from the powers to stop, search, whip and arrest that were placed in writing in state and municipal laws, the excesses of the patrols were also feared by the slaves: drunken, angry abandon.