PARTUS SEQUITUR VENTREM The primary legal principle used to perpetuate African American slavery from one generation to another was that of partus sequitur ventrem, meaning that the child inherits the status or condition of the mother. Running contrary to the English tradition which determined the status of children according to the status of the father, partus sequitur ventrem ensured that African American slavery would continue indefinitely.
Children of two slave parents, of course, would automatically be classified as slaves. Concurrently, a child born of an interracial union between a free white man and a black slave woman would also be classified as a slave. On the other hand, a child born of an interracial union between a free white woman and a black male slave would legally be free, inheriting the status
of its mother. Since miscegenation between free white women and black slave males was relatively rare in the antebellum South, the products of such unions were numerically fewer than the children born of free white fathers and black slave mothers. See also: MISCEGENATION.