THE ROOT -- Eva Sheppard Wolf, a professor at San Francisco State University, explains in Race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia From the Revolution to Nat Turner’s Rebellion:
“The legislature’s final act regarding Virginia’s African American population in 1832 — in fact the only legislation actually passed — was to amend the black code in order (whites hoped) to make future insurrections less likely. The new law barred black Virginians from preaching, placed tighter restrictions on the movements and assembly of slaves, and prescribed harsh punishments for anyone who promoted slave rebellion.
“The law also further reduced free blacks toward the status of slaves by requiring that they be tried in the slave courts (courts of oyer and terminer) in cases of larceny or felony instead of before a regular judge and jury and by barring them from owning guns (earlier laws allowed free people of color to own guns if they had a license, which was not required for whites). Important for the future of manumission in Virginia, the law also made it illegal for free people of color to purchase slaves except immediate family members, thus reducing the ability of the free black community to help enslaved fellow African Americans attain liberty.”