Slaveholders had no legal obligation to respect the sanctity of the slave's marriage bed, and slave women— married or single — had no formal protection against their owners' sexual advances. With each generation, the number of mixed-race slaves increased. An ex-slave, Virginia Yarbrough, explained how one slave woman persuaded the man that her master told her to live with to practice abstinence. Fogel argued that since the family was the basic unit of social organization under slavery, it was in the economic interest of slaveholders to encourage the stability of slave families and most did so. After three months, the master realized that the couple were not going to produce any children, so he let her live with the man of her choice, and they had children. In the southern colonies adopted into law the principle of partus sequitur ventrem , by which the children of slave women took the status of their mothers regardless of paternity. An Alabama court ruled that slaves "are rational beings, they are capable of committing crimes; and in reference to acts which are crimes, are regarded as persons. As masters applied their stamp to the domestic life of the slave quarter, slaves struggled to maintain the integrity of their families. Slaves were prohibited from leaving their owner's plantation without permission. Owners convicted of crimes[ edit ] In , Arthur William Hodge was the first slaveholder executed for the murder of a slave in the British West Indies. Because they are slaves, they are incapable of performing civil acts, and, in reference to all such, they are things, not persons. During slave auctions, females were sometimes displayed nude or only partially clothed. Small slaveholders worked together with their slaves and sometimes treated them more humanely. A "normal" African family life was impossible; women were in the field most of the day and fathers were almost non-existent. Punishment could be administered by the plantation owner or master, his wife, children or most often the overseer or driver. Deborah Gray White cites several cases of women who were considered by their masters to be infertile during slavery.