Black Codes

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Black Codes
"No negro or freedman shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within the limits of the town under any circumstances. . . . No negro or freedman shall reside within the limits of the town . . . who is not in the regular service of some white person or former owner. . . . No public meetings or congregations of negroes or freedmen shall be allowed within the limits of the town. . . . No negro or freedman shall be permitted to preach, exhort, or otherwise declaim to congregations of colored people without a special permission from the mayor or president of the board of police.. .. No freedman ... shall be allowed to carry firearms, or any kind of weapons.... No freedman shall sell, barter, or exchange any article of merchandise within the limits of Opelousas without permission in writing from his employer In the parish of St. Landry it was required "that every negro [is] to be in the service of some white person, or former owner. ...

Jim Crow Laws
Jim Crow etiquette operated in conjunction with Jim Crow laws (black codes). When most people think of Jim Crow they think of laws (not the Jim Crow etiquette) which excluded Blacks from public transport and facilities, juries, jobs, and neighborhoods. The passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution had granted Blacks the same legal protections as Whites. However, after 1877, and the election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, southern and border states began restricting the liberties of Blacks. Unfortunately for Blacks, the Supreme Court helped undermine the Constitutional protections of Blacks with the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) case, which legitimized Jim Crow laws and the Jim Crow way of life.

13 Amendment- Ratified 1865

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislatio

14 Amendment –Ratified 1868

Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

15 Amendment – Ratified 1870

Section. 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Cycle of Debt
By the end of Reconstruction, rural poverty was deeply rooted in the South, among blacks and whites alike. Both groups remained in a cycle f debt, in which this year’s profit went to pay last year’s bills. In cotton states, only about one black family in 20 owned land after a decade of Reconstruction.

Voter Qualifications
In the 1890s, these states began to amend their constitutions and to enact a series of laws intended to re-establish and entrench white political supremacy. Such disfranchising laws included poll taxes, literacy tests, vouchers of "good character," and disqualification for "crimes of moral turpitude." These laws were "color-blind" on their face, but were designed to exclude black citizens disproportionately by allowing white election officials to apply the procedures selectively. Other laws and practices, such as the "white primary,", attempted to evade the 15th Amendment by allowing "private" political parties to conduct elections and establish qualifications for their members.

Corruption During Reconstruction

During the era of Reconstruction, enormous sums of money changed hands rapidly in the form of fraudulent loans and grants. Participants in such schemes included blacks and whites, Republicans and Democrats, southerners and northern carpetbaggers. “You are mistaken if you suppose that all the evils…result from the carpetbaggers and negroes,” a Louisiana man wrote to a northern fellow Democrat.

Booker T. Washington

At 25, Booker T. Washington was appointed principal of the newly established "Tuskegee Normal School for colored teachers." There were no buildings when he arrived. On July 4, 1881, Washington held his first classes for thirty male and female students in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The first permanent building was constructed a year later. It was designed by African-American instructors and built by African-American students, a tradition that would thrive at Tuskegee. In 1885 the first students graduated.

Washington was determined to bring the best and brightest teachers to Tuskegee "not only for the money but also their deep interest in the race." Tuskegee embodied his total commitment to learning, self-help, practical training, and service to the community. Teachers trained to work with rural communities to improve farming, hygiene, and nutrition. Agricultural training provided experience and food for the table. Students learned trades to make them marketable and self-supporting. Tuskegee taught "classroom education ...practical knowledge, industry, thrift, and economy, that they (students) would be sure of knowing how to make a living after they had left us."

The Kansas State Globe

The Kansas State Globe, an African American newspaper pictured here, is published in Wyandotte, Kansas.

In the 1870s former slave Benjamin "Pap" Singleton envisioned thriving midwestern communities populated by African Americans. Singleton placed his hopes for a better life on a colonizing campaign he directed toward residents of Kentucky and Tennessee. He successfully distributed his message through African American newspapers.

Two hundred Black settlers responded to "Pap" Singleton's campaign, moving west to Nicodemus in Graham County, Kansas. They completed their long journey from Lexington, Kentucky, to the central Kansas plains in 1878. By 1886 the community supported three Black newspapers.

Black newspapers offer insight into the history of African American communities. These local publications often featured church news and items of specific interest to readers, usually without the support of advertising. They also discussed issues considered politically incorrect by other publishers.

Reconstruction Act of 1867

The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution was passed by Congress in 1867. The amendment was designed to grant citizenship to and protect the civil liberties of recently freed slaves. Most Southern states refused to ratify this amendment and therefore Radical Republicans such as Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, Benjamin Wade, Henry Winter Davies and Benjamin Butler urged the passing of further legislation to impose these measures on the former Confederacy.

Congress passed the first Reconstruction Act on 2nd March, 1867. The South was now divided into five military districts, each under a major general. New elections were to be held in each state with freed male slaves being allowed to vote. The act also included an amendment that offered readmission to the Southern states after they had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed adult male suffrage. President Andrew Johnson immediately vetoed the bill but Congress re-passed the bill the same day.

Andrew Johnson consulted General Ulysses S. Grant before selecting the generals to administer the military districts. Eventually he appointed John Schofield (Virginia), Daniel Sickles (the Carolinas), John Pope (Georgia, Alabama and Florida), Edward Ord (Arkansas and Mississippi) and Philip Sheridan (Louisiana and Texas).

It soon became clear that the Southern states would prefer military rule to civil government based on universal male suffrage. Congress therefore passed a supplementary Reconstruction Act on 23rd March that authorized the military commanders to supervise elections and generally to provide the machinery for constituting new governments. Once again Andrew Johnson vetoed the act on the grounds that it interfered with the right of the American citizen to "be left to the free exercise of his own judgment when he is engaged in the work of forming the fundamental law under which he is to live."

The first two Reconstruction Act were followed by a series of supplementary acts that authorized the military commanders to register the voters and supervise the elections. As a result of these measures all of the states had returned to the Union by 1870.

Southern Plantations

Maps of the Barrow Plantation, Scribner's Monthly, April 1881

Two maps illustrate the effects of emancipation on plantation life in the South. In 1860, slaves lived in communal quarters near the owner's house, subject to frequent contact and strict control.

Twenty years later, former slaves working as sharecroppers lived away from "The House" on separate plots of land and had their own church and school.

However, the "Gin house," where sharecroppers had their cotton cleaned, remained in the same location, central to the economic life of the plantation.

Blacks Elected in Mississippi

In March, 1867 Congress passed the Reconstruction Act, opening the era of Congressional Reconstruction. The Act divided the South into five military districts and disenfranchised large numbers of white southerners. The result was black voting majorities in five southern states. This soon led to the election of numerous blacks to high political office, as shown in this photo montage from Mississippi. Amongst the distinguished lawyers and politicians depicted here are Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram Revels (at left and right of the Old Capitol building). Both men were elected to the U.S. Senate, while their colleague John R. Lynch (located below Bruce in the picture) served in the U.S. House of Representatives—one of twenty African-Americans to be elected there during the Reconstruction era.


"Marriage of a Colored Soldier at Vicksburg,"

Alfred R. Waud, c. 1865.

Before the era of Reconstruction, there were laws in effect that outlawed slaves from marrying.

In the early days of freedom, thousands of African-Americans married under the authority of the Freedman's Bureau, an agency established by the federal government to look after the needs of the former slave.

Bureau records indicate that some marriages involved young men and women marrying for the first time, while others legalized slave unions made years before.

KKK Propaganda

Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the name of several past and present secret organizations in the United States, generally in the southern states, that are best known for advocating white supremacy and acting as vigilantes while hidden behind conic masks and white robes. The first KKK arose in the turmoil after the Civil War. It utilized terrorism, violence, and lynching to intimidate and oppress African Americans, Jews, Roman Catholics, and other racial and religious minorities.

Lynching – Early 20th Century

Between 1882, when reliable data was first collected, and 1968, when the crime had largely disappeared, there were at least 4,730 lynchings in the United States, including some 3,440 black men and women. Most of these were in the post-Reconstruction South between 1882 and 1944, where southern whites used lynching and other terror tactics to intimidate blacks into political, social, and economic submission. In many cases lynching’s were not spontaneous mob violence but involved a degree of planning and law-enforcement cooperation. Racially motivated lynchings, which often involved the mutilation of the victim, might be witnessed by an entire community as a diverting spectacle.

Election - 1876

Pictured here is Mrs. United States who declines presidential hopeful Tilden’s (left) offer to dance in order to keep her promise to President Hayes.

Freedman’s Schools

At left: Teacher and elementary school students posing on steps of the Hill School, ca. late 19th Century, Christiansburg Institute Collection.

African Americans in the South after the Civil War crowded into one-room schools opened by the U.S. Freedmen's Bureau and northern-based aid societies. Christiansburg Institute began in 1866 as one such school. It was spearheaded by Charles S. Schaeffer, a white Bureau officer and a fervent Baptist. Over the next three decades, he and the Friends' Freedmen's Association (FFA) of Philadelphia raised most of the school's funding. It was stewarded by a local African-American board of trustees and shared its grounds with the newly founded Christiansburg African Baptist Church.


After the Civil War many planters had ample land but little money for wages. At the same time most of the former slaves were uneducated and impoverished. The solution was the sharecropping system, which continued the worker in the routine of cotton cultivation under rigid supervision. The cropper brought only his own and his family’s labor. Most other requirements-land, animals, equipment, and seed-were provided by the landlord, who generally also advanced credit to meet the living expenses of the cropper family. Most croppers worked under the close direction of the landlord, and he marketed the crop and kept accounts. Normally in return for their work they received a share (usually half) of the money made. From this share the landlord deducted any debt. High interest charges, emphasis on production of a single cash crop, bad accounting, and chronic cropper irresponsibility were among the abuses of the system. This system almost always resulted in a cycle of debt that was almost impossible to break.

Plessy vs. Ferguson Cartoon

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