Black codes of 1865. c. Howell 10-13-04. Black codes of 1865.
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Black Codes was a name given to laws passed by southern governments established during the presidency of Andrew Johnson. These laws imposed severe restrictions on freed slaves such as prohibiting their right to vote, forbidding them to sit on juries, limiting their right to testify against white men, carrying weapons in public places and working in certain occupations. After the American Civil War the Radical Republicans advocated the passing of the Civil Rights Bill, legislation that was designed to protect freed slaves from Southern Black Codes (laws that placed severe restrictions on freed slaves such as prohibiting their right to vote, forbidding them to sit on juries, limiting their right to testify against white men, carrying weapons in public places and working in certain occupations).
In April 1866, President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Bill. Johnson told Thomas C. Fletcher, the governor of Missouri: "This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men." His views on racial equality was clearly defined in a letter to Benjamin B. French, the commissioner of public buildings: "Everyone would, and must admit, that the white race was superior to the black, and that while we ought to do our best to bring them up to our present level, that, in doing so, we should, at the same time raise our own intellectual status so that the relative position of the two races would be the same."Radical Republicans replaced the Civil Rights Bill and were also able to get the Reconstruction Acts passed in 1867 and 1868. Despite these acts, white control over Southern state governments was gradually restored when organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan were able to frighten blacks from voting in elections.
convict labor, vagrancy, must have home and means of support
in Miss, blacks forbidden to rent or own land outside towns
in SC, black children could be apprenticed to whites if parents did not educe
pt. = keep blacks in slavery - insure labor supply; restore press race relations
enforced by southern "county militia" and helped by Union troops, e.g., Gen George Crook in N Car - feared Emanc Day riot Jan 1, 1866 & gave arms to co. militia - gun battles, looting, "reallocation" of livestock acquired by freedmen during war
The Black Codes of 1865 turned out to be a unique way for white southerners to attempt to maintain the way of life they had known prior to the Civil War. While freedom had been won, ex-slaves were restricted and opportunities were limited.
The Black Codes were instituted by Southern legislative bodies in 1865 and 1866 in response to the emancipation of the four million former slaves in the Southern states during and after the American Civil War (1861-1865). The Black Codes recognized the new status of African Americans as freed people and offered them some of the basic rights of citizenship. However, the codes also defined the freed people as legally subordinate to whites and attempted to manage their labor in a way that would cause minimal disruption to the labor system instituted under slavery.
Faced with a rapidly transformed political and economic structure in the postbellum South, Mississippi and South Carolina began passing laws in 1865 to limit the freedom of African Americans. New vagrancy laws placed blacks in jeopardy of imprisonment or forced labor if they could not prove they were employed or self-supporting. Often the result was that free men and women returned to work for their former slave owners or on nearby plantations. The termination of a contract was made illegal for "any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto." In order to restrict the movement and resettlement of former slaves, laws forbade blacks to own or rent farmland. The codes did allow the freed people a number of basic legal rights that had not been granted under slavery. The rights to marry each other, to sue, to own minimal property, and to enter into contracts were written in the codes. Still, the central purpose of the Black Codes was the maintenance of a white-dominated hierarchy after the Civil War.