Black Codes (United States)
The Black Codes, sometimes called Black Laws, were laws governing the conduct of African Americans (free blacks). The best known of them were passed in 1865 and 1866 by Southern states, after the American Civil War, in order to restrict African Americans' freedom, and to compel them to work for low wages. However, Black Codes existed before the Civil War, and many Northern states had them. In 1832, "in most of the United States, there is a distinction in respect to political privileges, between free white persons and free coloured persons of African blood; and in no part of the country do the latter, in point of fact, participate equally with the whites, in the exercise of civil and political rights."
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Black Codes were part of a larger pattern of whites trying to maintain political dominance and suppress the freedmen, newly emancipated African-American slaves. Black codes were essentially replacements for slave codes in those states. Before the war, Northern states that had prohibited slavery also enacted Black Codes: Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and New York enacted laws to discourage free blacks from residing in those states. They were denied equal political rights, including the right to vote, the right to attend public schools, and the right to equal treatment under the law. Some of the Northern states repealed such laws around the same time that the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished by constitutional amendment.
Since the colonial period, colonies and states had passed laws that discriminated against free Blacks. In the South, these were generally included in "slave codes"; the goal was to reduce the influence of free blacks (particularly after slave rebellions) because of their potential influence on slaves. Restrictions included prohibiting them from voting (although North Carolina had allowed this before 1831), bearing arms, gathering in groups for worship, and learning to read and write. A major purpose of these laws was to preserve slavery in slave societies.
In the first two years after the Civil War, white-dominated Southern legislatures passed Black Codes modeled after the earlier slave codes. They were particularly concerned with controlling movement and labor of freedmen, as slavery had been replaced by a free labor system. Although freedmen had been emancipated, their lives were greatly restricted by the Black Codes.
The term Black Codes was given by "negro leaders and the Republican organs", according to historian John S. Reynolds. The defining feature of the Black Codes was broad vagrancy law, which allowed local authorities to arrest freedpeople for minor infractions and commit them to involuntary labor. This period was the start of the convict lease system, also described as "slavery by another name" by Douglas Blackmon in his 2008 book on this topic.
Vagrancy laws date to the end of feudalism in Europe. Introduced by aristocratic and landowning classes, they had the dual purpose of restricting access of "undesirable" classes to public spaces and of ensuring a labor pool. Serfs were not emancipated from their land.
Over the period of 1687–1865, Virginia enacted more than 130 slave statutes, among which were seven major slave codes, with some containing more than fifty provisions. "Black Codes" in the antebellum South contained more regulations of free Blacks than of slaves. Chattel slaves basically lived under the complete control of their owners; free blacks presented a challenge to the boundaries of white-dominated society.
Black Codes in the antebellum South strongly regulated the activities and behavior of blacks. North Carolina restricted slaves from leaving their plantation; if one tried to court (date) a woman on another property, he risked severe punishment at the hands of the patrollers or needed a pass in order to pursue this relationship. In many Southern states, particularly after Nat Turner's insurrection of 1831, free Blacks were prohibited from the basic constitutional rights of citizens to assemble in groups, bear arms, learn to read and write, exercise free speech, or testify against white people in Court. After 1810, states made manumissions of slaves more difficult to obtain, in some states requiring an act of legislature for each case. This sharply reduced the incidence of planters freeing slaves.
"All Southern states imposed at least minimal limits on slave punishment, for example, by making murder or life-threatening injury of slaves a crime, and a few states allowed slaves a limited right of self-defense." However, since slaves could not use the courts or sheriff, or give testimony against a white man, in practice these meant little. New restrictions were placed on intermarriage, concubinage, and miscegenation with slaves in Arizona in 1864, California in 1880, Colorado in 1864, Florida, Indiana in 1905, Kentucky in 1866, Montana in 1909, Nebraska in 1865, Nevada in 1912, North Dakota in 1943, Ohio 1877, Oregon in 1867, Rhode Island in 1872, South Dakota in 1913, Tennessee in 1870, Texas in 1858, Utah in 1888, Virginia, Washington in 1866 but promptly repealed it in 1867, West Virginia in 1863 but overturned by Loving v Virginia in 1967, and Wyoming in 1908. In all, twenty-one states put in place Jim Crow laws against miscegenation. Free whites could no longer marry a slave and thereby emancipate her and her children, and no freedman could receive a donation or inheritance from a white person.
|“||Slavery wus a bad thing en' freedom, of de kin' we got wid nothin' to live on wus bad. Two snakes full of pisen. One lying wid his head pintin' north, de other wid his head pintin' south. Dere names wus slavery an' freedom. De snake called slavery lay wid his head pinted south and de snake called freedom lay wid his head pinted north. Both bit de nigger, an' dey wus both bad.||”|
As the abolitionist movement gained force and the Underground Railroad helped fugitive slaves escape to the North, concern about blacks heightened among Northern whites. Territories and states near the slave states did not welcome free blacks. But north of the Mason–Dixon line, anti-Black laws were generally less severe. Some public spaces were segregated, and Blacks generally did not have the right to vote. In Oregon, Blacks were forbidden to settle, marry, or sign contracts.
All the slave states passed anti-miscegenation laws, banning the marriage of white and black people, as did several new free states of the former Northwest Territory, including Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois shared borders with the slave states across the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The population of the southern parts of these states had generally migrated from the Upper South; their culture and values were more akin to those of the South across the river than those of the northern settlers, who had migrated from New England and New York. In some states these codes included vagrancy laws that targeted unemployed blacks, apprentice laws that made black orphans and dependents available for hire to whites, and commercial laws that excluded blacks from certain trades and businesses and restricted their ownership of property.
Article 13 of Indiana's 1851 Constitution stated "No Negro or Mulatto shall come into, or settle in, the State, after the adoption of this Constitution." The 1848 Constitution of Illinois contributed to the state legislature passing one of the harshest Black Code systems in the nation until the Civil War. The Illinois Black Code of 1853 prohibited any Black persons from outside of the state from staying in the state for more than ten days, subjecting Blacks who violated that rule to arrest, detention, a $50 fine, or deportation. However, while slavery was illegal in Illinois, landowners in the southern parts of the state would legally bring in slaves from adjacent Kentucky, and force them to do agricultural work for no wages. They had to be removed from the state for one day each year, thus preventing them from being citizens of Illinois and receiving the protection of its laws.
Maryland passed vagrancy and apprentice laws, and required Blacks to obtain licenses from Whites before doing business. It prohibited immigration of free Blacks until 1865. Most of the Maryland Black Code was repealed in the Constitution of 1867. Black women were not allowed to testify against White men with whom they had children, giving them a status similar to wives.
The Union Army relied on the labor of newly freed people, and did not always treat them fairly. Thomas W. Knox wrote: "The difference between working for nothing as a slave, and working for the same wages under the Yankees, was not always perceptible." At the same time, military officials resisted local attempts to apply pre-war laws to the freed people. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the Army conscripted Black "vagrants" and sometimes others.
The Union Army applied the northern wage system of free labor to freedmen after the Emancipation Proclamation; they effectively upgraded free Blacks from "contraband" status. General Nathaniel P. Banks in Louisiana initiated a system of wage labor in February 1863 in Louisiana; General Lorenzo Thomas implemented a similar system in Mississippi. The Banks-Thomas system offered Blacks $10 a month, with the Army's commitment to provide rations, clothing, and medicine. The worker would have to agree to an unbreakable one-year contract. In 1864, Thomas expanded the system to Tennessee, and allowed white landowners near the Nashville contraband camp to rent the labor of refugees.
Against opposition from elements of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln accepted this system as a step on the path to gradual emancipation. Abolitionists continued to criticize the labor system. Wendell Phillips said that Lincoln's proclamation had "free[d] the slave, but ignore[d] the Negro", calling the Banks-Thomas year-long contracts tantamount to serfdom. The Worcester Spy described the government's answer to slavery as "something worse than failure."
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As the war ended, the US Army implemented Black Codes to regulate the behavior of black people in general society. Although the Freedmen's Bureau had a mandate to protect blacks from a hostile Southern environment, it also sought to keep blacks in their place as laborers in order to allow production on the plantations to resume so that the South could revive its economy. The Freedmen's Bureau cooperated with Southern authorities in rounding up black "vagrants" and placing them in contract work. In some places, it supported owners to maintain control of young slaves as apprentices.
After the war
Soon after the end of slavery, white planters encountered a labor shortage and sought a way to manage it. Although blacks did not all abruptly stop working, they did try to work less. In particular, many sought to reduce their Saturday work hours, and women wanted to spend more time on child care. In the view of one contemporary economist, freed people exhibited this "noncapitalist behavior" because the condition of being owned had "shielded the slaves from the market economy" and they were therefore unable to perform "careful calculation of economic opportunities".
An alternative explanation treats the labor slowdown as a form of gaining leverage through collective action. Another possibility is that freed blacks assigned value to leisure and family time in excess of the monetary value of additional paid labor. Indeed, freedpeople certainly did not want to work the long hours that had been forced upon them for their whole lives. Whatever its causes, the sudden reduction of available labor posed a challenge to the Southern economy, which had relied upon intense physical labor to profitably harvest cash crops, particularly King Cotton.
Preexisting White American belief of Black inferiority informed post-war attitudes and White racial dominance continued to be culturally embedded; Whites believed both that Black people were destined for servitude and that they would not work unless physically compelled. For their part, free Blacks no longer felt compelled to show conspicuous deference to White people. The enslaved also strove to create a semi-autonomous social world, removed from the plantation and the gaze of the slave owner. The racial divisions which slavery had created immediately became more obvious. Blacks also bore the brunt of Southern anger over defeat in the War.
Legislation on the status of freedpeople was often mandated by constitutional conventions held in 1865. Mississippi, South Carolina, and Georgia all included language in their new state constitutions which instructed the legislature to "guard them and the State against any evils that may arise from their sudden emancipation". The Florida convention of October 1865 included a vagrancy ordinance that was in effect until process Black Codes could be passed through the regular legislative process.
Legislation in Southern states
Black Codes restricted black people's right to own property, conduct business, buy and lease land, and move freely through public spaces. A central element of the Black Codes were vagrancy laws. States criminalized men who were out of work, or who were not working at a job whites recognized. Failure to pay a certain tax, or to comply with other laws, could also be construed as vagrancy.
Nine southern states updated their vagrancy laws in 1865–1866. Of these, eight allowed convict leasing (a system in which state prison hired out convicts for labor) and five allowed prisoner labor for public works projects. This created a system that established incentives to arrest black men, as convicts were supplied to local governments and planters as workers. The planters or other supervisors were responsible for their board and food, and black convicts were kept in miserable conditions. As Douglas Blackmon wrote, it was "slavery by another name". Because of their reliance on convict leasing, Southern states did not build any prisons until the late 19th century.
Strict punishments against theft also served to ensnare many people in the legal system. Previously, Blacks had been part of the domestic economy on a plantation, and were more or less able to use supplies that were available. After emancipation, the same act performed by someone working the same land might be labeled as theft, leading to arrest and involuntary labor.
Some states explicitly curtailed Black people's right to bear arms, justifying these laws with claims of imminent insurrection. In Mississippi and Alabama, these laws were enforced through the creation of special militias.
Historian Samuel McCall, who published a biography about abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, commented in 1899 that the Black Codes had "established a condition but little better than that of slavery, and in one important respect far worse": by severing the property relationship, they had diminished the incentive for property owners to ensure the relative health and survival of their workers.
Regarding the question of whether Southern legislatures deliberately tried to maintain White supremacy, Beverly Forehand writes: "This decision was not a conscious one on the part of white legislators. It was simply an accepted conclusion."
During Reconstruction, state legislatures passed some laws that established some positive rights for freedmen. States legalized Black marriages and in some cases increased the rights of freedmen to own property and conduct commerce.
Mississippi was the first state to pass Black Codes. Its laws served as a model for those passed by other states, beginning with South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana in 1865, and continuing with Florida, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas at the beginning of 1866. Intense Northern reaction against the Mississippi and South Carolina laws led some of the states that subsequently passed laws to excise overt racial discrimination; but, their laws on vagrancy, apprenticeship, and other topics were crafted to effect a similarly racist regime. Even states that carefully eliminated most of the overt discrimination in their Black Codes retained laws authorizing harsher sentences for Black people.
Mississippi was the first state to legislate a new Black Code after the war, beginning with "An Act to confer Civil Rights on Freedmen". This law allowed Blacks to rent land only within cities—effectively preventing them from earning money through independent farming. It required Blacks to present, each January, written proof of employment. The law defined violation of this requirement as vagrancy, punishable by arrest—for which the arresting officer would be paid $5, to be taken from the arrestee's wages. Provisions akin to fugitive slave laws mandated the return of runaway workers, who would lose their wages for the year. An amended version of the vagrancy law included punishments for sympathetic whites:
That all freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes in this State, over the age of eighteen years, found on the second Monday in January, 1866, or thereafter, without lawful employment or business, or found unlawfully assembling themselves together, either in the day or night time, and all white persons so assembling themselves with freedmen, free negroes or mulattoes, or usually associating with freedmen, free negroes or mulattoes, on terms of equality, or living in adultery or fornication with a freed woman, free negro or mulatto, shall be deemed vagrants, and on conviction thereof shall be fined in a sum not exceeding, in the case of a freedman, free negro, or mulatto, fifty dollars, and a white man two hundred dollars, and imprisoned, at the discretion of the court, the free negro not exceeding ten days, and the white man not exceeding six months.
Whites could avoid the code's penalty by swearing a pauper's oath. In the case of blacks, however: "the duty of the sheriff of the proper county to hire out said freedman, free negro or mulatto, to any person who will, for the shortest period of service, pay said fine or forfeiture and all costs." The laws also levied a special tax on blacks (between ages 18 and 60); those who did not pay could be arrested for vagrancy.
Another law allowed the state to take custody of children whose parents could or would not support them; these children would then be "apprenticed" to their former owners. Masters could discipline these apprentices with corporal punishment. They could re-capture apprentices who escaped and threaten them with prison if they resisted.
Other laws prevented blacks from buying liquor and carrying weapons; punishment often involved "hiring out" the culprit's labor for no pay.
Mississippi rejected the Thirteenth Amendment on December 5, 1865.
General Oliver O. Howard, national head of the Freedmen's Bureau, declared in November 1865 that most of the Mississippi Black Code was invalid.
The next state to pass Black Codes was South Carolina, which had on November 13 ratified the Thirteenth Amendment—with a qualification that Congress did not have the authority to regulate the legal status of freedmen. Newly elected governor James Lawrence Orr said that blacks must be "restrained from theft, idleness, vagrancy and crime, and taught the absolute necessity of strictly complying with their contracts for labor".
South Carolina's new law on "Domestic Relations of Persons of Color" established wide-ranging rules on vagrancy resembling Mississippi's. Conviction for vagrancy allowed the state to "hire out" blacks for no pay. The law also called for a special tax on blacks (all males and unmarried females), with non-paying blacks again guilty of vagrancy. The law enabled forcible apprenticeship of children of impoverished parents, or of parents who did not convey "habits of industry and honesty". The law did not include the same punishments for Whites in dealing with fugitives.
The South Carolina law created separate courts for Black people, and authorized capital punishment for crimes including theft of cotton. It created a system of licensing and written authorizations that made it difficult for Blacks to engage in normal commerce.
A "Colored People's Convention" assembled at Zion Church in Charleston, South Carolina, to condemn the Codes. In a memorial (petition) to Congress, the Convention expressed gratitude for emancipation and establishment of the Freedmen's Bureau, but requested (in addition to suffrage) "that the strong arm of law and order be placed alike over the entire people of this State; that life and property be secured, and the laborer as free to sell his labor as the merchant his goods."
Some Whites, meanwhile, thought the new laws did not go far enough. One planter suggested that the new laws would require paramilitary enforcement: "As for making the negroes work under the present state of affairs it seems to me a waste of time and energy ... We must have mounted Infantry that the freedmen know distinctly that they succeed the Yankees to enforce whatever regulations we can make." Edmund Rhett (son of Robert Rhett) wrote that although South Carolina might be unable to undo abolition,
it should to the utmost extent practicable be limited, controlled, and surrounded with such safe guards, as will make the change as slight as possible both to the white man and to the negro, the planter and the workman, the capitalist and the laborer.
General Daniel Sickles, head of the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina, followed Howard's lead and declared the laws invalid in December 1865.
However, even as the legislators passed these laws, they despaired of the forthcoming response from Washington. James Hemphill said: "It will be hard to persuade the freedom shriekers that the American citizens of African descent are obtaining their rights." Orr moved to block further laws containing explicit racial discrimination. In 1866, the South Carolina code came under increasing scrutiny in the Northern press and was compared unfavorably to freedmen's laws passed in neighboring Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.
In a special session held in September 1866, the legislature passed some new laws in concession to the rights of free Blacks. Shortly after, it rejected the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Louisiana legislature, seeking to ensure that freedmen were "available to the agricultural interests of the state", passed similar yearly contract laws and expanded its vagrancy laws. Its vagrancy laws did not specify Black culprits, though they did provide a "good behavior" loophole subject to plausibly racist interpretation. Louisiana passed harsher fugitive worker laws and required blacks to present dismissal paperwork to new employers.
State legislation was amplified by local authorities, who ran less risk of backlash from the federal government. Opelousas, Louisiana, passed a notorious code which required freedpeople to have written authorization to enter the town. The code prevented freedpeople from living in the town or walking at night except under supervision of a White resident.
Thomas W. Conway, the Freedmen's Bureau commissioner for Louisiana, testified in 1866:
Some of the leading officers of the state down there—men who do much to form and control the opinions of the masses—instead of doing as they promised, and quietly submitting to the authority of the government, engaged in issuing slave codes and in promulgating them to their subordinates, ordering them to carry them into execution, and this to the knowledge of state officials of a higher character, the governor and others. ... These codes were simply the old black code of the state, with the word 'slave' expunged, and 'Negro' substituted. The most odious features of slavery were preserved in them.
Conway describes surveying the Louisiana jails and finding large numbers of Black men who had been secretly incarcerated. These included members of the Seventy-Fourth Colored Infantry who had been arrested the day after they were discharged.
Of the Black Codes passed in 1866 (after the Northern reaction had become apparent), only Florida's rivaled those of Mississippi and South Carolina in severity. Florida's slaveowners seemed to hold out hope that the institution of slavery would simply be restored. Advised by the Florida governor and attorney general as well as by the Freedmen's Bureau that it could not constitutionally revoke Black people's right to bear arms, the Florida legislature refused to repeal this part of the codes.
These laws applied to any "person of color", which was defined as someone with at least one Negro great-grandparent, or one-eighth black ancestry. White women could not live with men of color. Colored workers could be punished for disrespecting White employers. The explicit racism in the law was supplemented by racist enforcement discretion (and other inequalities) in the practice of law enforcement and legal systems.
In Maryland, a fierce battle began immediately after emancipation (by the Maryland Constitution of 1864) over requiring apprenticeship of young black people. By 1860, 45.6% of the black population in the state was already free. Former slave owners rushed to place the children of freedpeople in multi-year apprenticeships; the Freedmen's Bureau and some others tried to stop them. The legislature stripped Baltimore Judge Hugh Lennox Bond of his position because he cooperated with the Bureau in this matter. Salmon Chase, as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, eventually overruled the Maryland apprentice laws on the grounds of their violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
The Texas Constitutional Convention met in February 1866, declined to ratify the (already effective) Thirteenth Amendment, provided that Blacks would be "protected in their rights of person and property by appropriate legislation" and guaranteed some degree of rights to testify in court. Texas modeled its laws on South Carolina's.
The legislature defined Negroes as people with at least one African great-grandparent. Negroes could choose their employer, before a deadline. After they had made a contract, they were bound to it. If they quit "without cause of permission" they would lose all of their wages. Workers could be fined $1 for acts of disobedience or negligence, and 25 cents per hour for missed work. The legislature also created a system of apprenticeship (with corporal punishment) and vagrancy laws. Convict labor could be hired out or used in public works.
Negroes were not allowed to vote, hold office, sit on juries, serve in local militia, carry guns on plantations, homestead, or attend public schools. Interracial marriage was banned. Rape sentencing laws stipulated either capital punishment, or life in prison, or a minimum sentence of five years. Even to commentators who favored the codes, this "wide latitude in punishment" seemed to imply a clear "anti-Negro bias".
Tennessee had been occupied by the Union for a long period during the war. As military governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson declared a suspension of the slave code in September 1864. However, these laws were still enforced in lower courts. In 1865, Tennessee freedpeople had no legal status whatsoever, and local jurisdictions often filled the void with extremely harsh Black Codes. During that year, Blacks went from one-fiftieth to one-third of the State's prison population.
Tennessee had a particularly urgent desire to re-enter the Union's good graces and end the occupation. When the Tennessee Legislature began to debate a Black Code, it received such negative attention in the Northern press that no comprehensive Code was ever established. Instead, the State legalized Black suffrage and passed a civil rights law guaranteeing Blacks equal rights in commerce and access to the Courts.
However, Tennessee society, including its judicial system, retained the same racist attitudes as did other states. Although its legal code did not discriminate against Blacks so explicitly, its law enforcement and criminal justice systems relied more heavily on racist enforcement discretion to create a de facto Black Code. The state already had vagrancy and apprenticeship laws which could easily be enforced in the same way as Black Codes in other states. Vagrancy laws came into much more frequent use after the war. And just as in Mississippi, Black children were often bound in apprenticeship to their former owners.
The legislature passed two laws on May 17, 1865; one to "Punish all Armed Prowlers, Guerilla, Brigands, and Highway Robbers"; the other to authorize capital punishment for thefts, burglary, and arson. These laws were targeted at Blacks and enforced disproportionately against Blacks, but did not discuss race explicitly.
Tennessee law permitted Blacks to testify against Whites in 1865, but this change did not immediately take practical effect in the lower courts. Blacks could not sit on juries. Still on the books were laws specifying capital punishment for a Black man who raped a White woman.
Kentucky had established a system of leasing prison labor in 1825. This system drew a steady supply of laborers from the decisions of "negro courts", informal tribunals which included slaveowners. Free Blacks were frequently arrested and forced into labor.
Kentucky did not secede from the Union and therefore gained wide leeway from the federal government during Reconstruction. With Delaware, Kentucky did not ratify the Thirteenth Amendment and maintained legal slavery until it was nationally prohibited when the Amendment went into effect in December 1865. After the Thirteenth Amendment took effect, the state was obligated to rewrite its laws.
The result was a set of Black Codes passed in early 1866. These granted a set of rights: to own property, make contracts, and some other innovations. They also included new vagrancy and apprentice laws, which did not mention Blacks explicitly but were clearly directed toward them. The vagrancy law covered loitering, "rambling without a job" and "keeping a disorderly house". City jails filled up; wages dropped below pre-war rates.
The Freedmen's Bureau in Kentucky was especially weak and could not mount a significant response. The Bureau attempted to cancel a racially discriminatory apprenticeship law (which stipulated that only White children learn to read) but found itself thwarted by local authorities.
Kentucky law prevented Blacks from testifying against Whites, a restriction which the federal government sought to remedy by providing access to federal courts through the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Kentucky challenged the constitutionality of these courts and prevailed in Blyew v. United States (1872). All contracts required the presence of a White witness. Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment did not have a great effect on Kentucky's Black Codes.
Reconstruction and Jim Crow
The Black Codes outraged public opinion in the North because it seemed the South was creating a form of quasi-slavery to negate the results of the war. When the Radical 39th Congress re-convened in December 1865, it was generally furious about the developments that had transpired during Johnson's Presidential Reconstruction. The Black Codes, along with the appointment of prominent Confederates to Congress, signified that the South had been emboldened by Johnson and intended to maintain its old political order. Railing against the Black Codes as returns to slavery in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Second Freedmen's Bureau Bill.
After winning large majorities in the 1866 elections, the Republican Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts placing the South under military rule. This arrangement lasted until the military withdrawal arranged by the Compromise of 1877. In some historical periodizations, 1877 marks the beginning of the Jim Crow era.
The 1865–1866 Black Codes were an overt manifestation of the system of white supremacy that continued to dominate the American South. Historians have described this system as the emergent result of a wide variety of laws and practices, conducted on all levels of jurisdiction. Because legal enforcement depended on so many different local codes, which underwent less scrutiny than statewide legislation, historians still lack a complete understanding of their full scope. It is clear, however, that even under military rule, local jurisdictions were able to continue a racist pattern of law enforcement, as long as it took place under a legal regime that was superficially race-neutral.
In 1893–1909 every Southern state except Tennessee passed new vagrancy laws. These laws were more severe than those passed in 1865, and used vague terms that granted wide powers to police officers enforcing the law. In wartime, Blacks might be disproportionately subjected to "work or fight" laws, which increased vagrancy penalties for those not in the military. The Supreme Court upheld racially discriminatory state laws and invalidated federal efforts to counteract them; in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) it upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation and introduced the "separate but equal" doctrine.
A general system of legitimized anti-Black violence, as exemplified by the Ku Klux Klan, played a major part in enforcing the practical law of white supremacy. The constant threat of violence against Black people (and White people who sympathized with them) maintained a system of extralegal terror. Although this system is now well known for prohibiting Black suffrage after the Fifteenth Amendment, it also served to enforce coercive labor relations. Fear of random violence provided new support for a paternalistic relationship between plantation owners and their Black workers.
Legacy and interventions
This regime of White-dominated labor was not identified by the North as involuntary servitude until after 1900. In 1907, Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte issued a report, Peonage Matters, which found that, beyond debt peonage, there was a widespread system of laws "considered to have been passed to force negro laborers to work".
After creating the Civil Rights Section in 1939, the federal Department of Justice launched a wave of successful Thirteenth Amendment prosecutions against involuntary servitude in the South.
Many of the Southern vagrancy laws remained on the books until the Supreme Court's Papachristou v. Jacksonville decision in 1972. Although by 1972 the laws were defended as preventing crime, the Court held that Jacksonville's vagrancy law "furnishes a convenient tool for 'harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials, against particular groups deemed to merit their displeasure.'"
Even after Papachristou, police activity in many parts of the United States discriminates against racial minority groups. Gary Stewart has identified contemporary gang injunctions—which target young Black or Latino men who gather in public—as a conspicuous legacy of Southern Black Codes. Stewart argues that these laws maintain a system of white supremacy and reflect a system of racist prejudice, even though racism is rarely acknowledged explicitly in their creation and enforcement. Contemporary Black commentators have argued that the current disproportionate incarceration of African Americans, with a concomitant rise in prison labor, is comparable (perhaps unfavorably) with the historical Black Codes.
The desire to recuperate the labor of officially emancipated people is common among societies (most notably in Latin America) that were built on slave labor. Vagrancy laws and peonage systems are widespread features of post-slavery societies. One theory suggests that particularly restrictive laws emerge in larger countries (compare Jamaica with the United States) where the ruling group does not occupy land at a high enough density to prevent the freed people from gaining their own. However, it seems, the United States was uniquely successful in maintaining involuntary servitude after legal emancipation.
Historians have also compared the end of the slavery in the United States to the formal decolonization of Asian and African nations. Like emancipation, decolonization was a landmark political change—but its significance, according to some historians, was tempered by the continuity of economic exploitation. The end of legal slavery in the United States did not seem to have major effects on the global economy or international relations. Given the pattern of economic continuity, writes economist Pieter Emmer, "the words emancipation and abolition must be regarded with the utmost suspicion."
- 40 acres and a mule
- Apartheid in South Africa
- Code Noir
- Grandfather clause
- Judicial aspects of race in the United States
- List of Jim Crow law examples by state
- Oregon black exclusion laws
- Racial segregation in the United States
- Republic of New Afrika
- Reverse Underground Railroad
- Wage slavery
- History of unfree labor in the United States
- Kent, James (1832). Commentaries on American Law. 2 (2nd ed.). New-York: O. Halsted. p. 258.
- The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio by Stephen Middleton. (2005. Ohio University Press) (https://www.ohioswallow.com/book/The+Black+Laws
- James Calvin Hemphill, "John Schreiner Reynolds", Men of Mark in South Carolina: Ideals of American Life Vol. II; Washington, D.C.: Men of Mark Publishing Co., 1908.
- Kermit L. Hall, "Political Power and Constitutional Legitimacy: The South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials" Archived 2013-03-16 at the Wayback Machine; Emory Law Journal 33, Fall 1984.
- John S. Reynolds, Reconstruction in South Carolina; Columbia, SC: State Co., 1905; p. 27.
- Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, New York: Doubleday, 2008
- Stewart, White Codes and Broken Femurs (1998), pp. 2257–2258.
- Palmer, Vernon Valentine (April 2006). "The Customs of Slavery: The War Without Arms". American Journal of Legal History. 2 (48): 177.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 6.
- Griffin, Rebecca J (April 2004). ""Goin' Back Over There to See That Girl": Competing Social Spaces in the Lives of the Enslaved in Antebellum North Carolina". Slavery & Abolition. 25 (1): 108.
- Forte, "Spiritual Equality" (1998), p. 579–580.
- Painter, Creating Black Americans (2005), pp. 79–81.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 7.
- Ranney, In the Wake of Slavery (2006), p. 15.
- Palmer, Vernon Valentine (April 2006). "The Customs of Slavery: The War Without Arms". American Journal of Legal History. 2 (48): 185.
- WPA documents reproduced at North Carolina Slave Narratives; quoted in Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 120.
- Mcclintock, Thomas C. (1995). "James Saules, Peter Burnett, and the Oregon Black Exclusion Law of June 1844". The Pacific Northwest Quarterly. 86 (3): 121–130. JSTOR 40491550.
- "The Legal Map of Interracial Relations 1662–1967". Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- "black codes". www.reference.com. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
- Bridges, Roger D. The Illinois Black Codes. http://www.lib.niu.edu/1996/iht329602.html
- Ranney, In the Wake of Slavery (2006), p. 17. "Between 1795 and 1810, Maryland enacted vagrancy laws similar to Delaware's; required free blacks to obtain certificates of good character from local officials in order to sell products or keep hunting equipment; and allowed its courts to apprentice children of destitute or unfit black parents to white masters."
- DuBois, Black Reconstruction (1935), p. 564.
- Forehand, Striking Resemblance (1996), p. Abstract.
- DuBois, Black Reconstruction (1935), p. 178.
- Thomas W. Knox, Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field: Southern Adventure in Time of War: Life with the Union Armies, and Residence on a Louisiana Plantation, New York: Blelock & Co., 1865; p. 317. Quoted in Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), pp. 89–90.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 20–24.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 25.
- Forte, "Spiritual Equality" (1998), pp. 589–590. Quote: "Much more troublesome was the Union's treatment of the freed slaves in Louisiana and the South as a whole. The Union military authorities in the South approved a plan of apprenticeship for the freed black, a policy that Lincoln seemed to accept, at least as an interim measure 'conforming substantially to the most approved plans of gradual emancipation'."
- Belz, A New Birth of Freedom (2000), pp. 45–46.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 28–29.
- Belz, A New Birth of Freedom (2000), pp. 52–53.
- Wilson, Black Codes (1965), p. 57. "In a nutshell, the sum of army and Freedmen's Bureau policies was: protect the negroes from violence and actual enslavement, but keep as many as possible on the plantations and compel them to work. Both agencies preserved 'white man's rule,' and though both of them did, as George Bently said of the Freedmen's Bureau, 'maintain a fairly strong guard against any form of reenslavement of the Negroes', their interest in the welfare and happiness of the freedmen did not, as a whole, extend far beyond that safeguard in 1865 and 1866. It is also as true of one as of the other that its policies, in the main, were 'those that planters and other businessmen desired.'"
- Wilson, Black Codes (1965), p. 58–59.
- Daniel, Metamorphosis of Slavery (1979), p. 96. "The yearly contract was one of the most important elements in the landlord's control over labor—not what the contract stated explicitly, but what it implied and how it was executed. The pattern emerged immediately after the war. With encouragement from the Freedmen's Bureau, blacks signed up for a year's work, and the vigilant eyes of federal officials noted that many contracts resembled slavery."
- Wormser, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (2003), p. 11.
- Richardson, Florida Black Codes (1969), p. 370.
- Wilson, Black Codes (1965), pp. 54–55. "The larger problem, however, was labor for agriculture, the mainstay of the southern economy. Increasingly the freedmen, whose work day was from sunrise to sunset, refused to work more than a half day, if at all, on Saturday. ... The greatest loss to the labor force resulted from the decision of growing numbers of negro women to devote their time to their homes and children."
- Emmer, "The Price of Freedom" (1992), pp. 35–36.
- Cohen, At Freedom's Edge (1991), pp. 16–17.
- Cohen, At Freedom's Edge (1991), p. 14.
- Emmer, "The Price of Freedom" (1992), p. 29.
- Wilson, Black Codes (1965), p. 53. "Most southern towns were not very large and the influx of even a few hundred undoubtedly gave witnesses a false impression of the size of the movement. ... Nonetheless impressions of southerners had great importance because they encouraged the belief that special laws—Black Codes—were necessary. This opinion was expressed by the Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, January 9, 1866: 'To live in town ... is now the general desire on the part of the freedmen ... a good vagrant system cannot too soon be put in operation.'"
- Stewart, Black Codes and Broken Windows (1998), pp. 2259–2260.
- Griffin, Rebecca J (April 2004). "'Goin' Back Over There to See That Girl': Competing Social Spaces in the Lives of the Enslaved in Antebellum North Carolina". Slavery & Abolition. 1 (25): 99.
- Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), p. 91. "Freedmen, however, did not cooperate with the plans to reenslave them. Immediately, planters and whites in general were struck by the change in attitude among freedmen. Deference largely disappeared, respect for whites dwindled, and even the more patient whites found it difficult to work with free blacks. Paternalism no longer worked, and whites came to hate freedmen, projecting on blacks the defeat in battle, economic ruin and the occupation by Union troops. […] Yet a kind of paternalism emerged once again during the violence of Radical Reconstruction, during the rides of the Ku Klux Klan. Planters, sizing up the situation, gave tenants on their plantations protection in exchange for regular work and a general compliance with the new order."
- Wilson, Black Codes (1965), p. 63.
- Richardson, "Florida Black Codes" (1969), pp. 371–372. "The convention responded with a special ordinance providing for a vagrancy law until the legislature could take action. Any able-bodied person who was 'wandering or strolling about or leading an idle, profligate, or immoral course of life' could be arrested upon complaint of any citizen before a justice of peace or circuit court judge. Penalties included imprisonment, fine, or being sold to the highest bidder for as much as twelve months."
- Wormser, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (2003), p. 8.
- Stewart, Black Codes and Broken Windows (1998), p. 2261.
- Cohen, At Freedom's Edge (1991), p. 33. "Of the nine states that adopted vagrancy laws in 1865 – 1866, all except North Carolina provided for the hiring-out of vagrants. These same states also enacted convict laws allowing for the hiring-out of other country prisoners who could not pay their fines and costs. In addition, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia made it legal for county authorities to put prisoners to work on public projects such as roads and bridges."
- Forehand, Striking Resemblance (1996), pp. 59–60.
- Richardson, "Florida Black Codes" (1969), p. 373.
- DuBois, Black Reconstruction (1935), p. 172.
- Wilson, Black Codes (1965), p. 56. Quote: "Mississippi quickly passed one law providing for the immediate organization of volunteer militia companies and another outlawing possession of weapons by Negroes. The militia proceeded to disarm the Negroes in such a brutal fashion as to cause much criticism. Alabama Negroes were disarmed by similar methods with like results."
- Samuel W. McCall, Thaddeus Stevens; Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1899; pp. 253–254. Quoted in DuBois, Black Reconstruction (1935), p. 179.
- Forehand, Striking Resemblance (1996), p. 14.
- Ranney, In the Wake of Slavery (2006), p. 51. Quote: "Generally, Restoration legislatures tried to preserve as many prewar restrictions as possible while making at least a slight bow to Northern public opinion."
- Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, A History of the United States since the Civil War (1917) 1:128–129. Quote: "Negroes must make annual contracts for their labor in writing; if they should run away from their tasks, they forfeited their wages for the year. Whenever it was required of them they must present licenses (in a town from the mayor; elsewhere from a member of the board of police of the beat) citing their places of residence and authorizing them to work. Fugitives from labor were to be arrested and carried back to their employers. Five dollars a head and mileage would be allowed such negro catchers. It was made a misdemeanor, punishable with fine or imprisonment, to persuade a freedman to leave his employer, or to feed the runaway. Minors were to be apprenticed, if males until they were twenty-one, if females until eighteen years of age. Such corporal punishment as a father would administer to a child might be inflicted upon apprentices by their masters. Vagrants were to be fined heavily, and if they could not pay the sum, they were to be hired out to service until the claim was satisfied. Negroes must not carry knives or firearms unless they were licensed so to do. It was an offence, to be punished by a fine of $50 and imprisonment for thirty days, to give or sell intoxicating liquors to a negro. When negroes could not pay the fines and costs after legal proceedings, they were to be hired at public outcry by the sheriff to the lowest bidder...."
- Novak, Wheel of Servitude (1978), p. 2–3.
- Forte, Spiritual Equality (1998), p. 600–601. "As with slaves, should the apprentice leave his master's employ, the master was authorized to pursue and recapture the youngster. If the apprentice still refused to return without just cause, he would be arrested and imprisoned."
- Novak, Wheel of Servitude (1978), p. 3. "The next act passed by the legislature dealt with 'Master and Apprentice' relationships 'as relates to Freedmen, Free Negroes and Mulattoes.' It allowed the probate courts to apprentice any black child whose parents could not or would not support him. First preference in the assignment of masters should go to the former owner of said minors."
- Forte, "Spiritual Equality" (1998), p. 603.
- Novak, Wheel of Servitude (1978), p. 4.
- Novak, Wheel of Servitude (1978), pp. 4–5. "Notably, the use of criminal penalties to prevent the enticement of a servant or his harboring was not included in the South Carolina codes at this time."
- DuBois, Black Reconstruction (1935), p. 176.
- Forte, "Spiritual Equality" (1998), pp. 601–602.
- Ranney, In the Wake of Slavery (2006), p. 46.
- Memorial: To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress Assembled, State Convention of the Colored People of South Carolina Archived 2014-11-05 at the Wayback Machine, November 24, 1865, pp. 30–31.
- DuBois, Black Reconstruction (1935), p. 231.
- Williamson, After Slavery (1965), p. 74.
- Williamson, After Slavery (1965), p. 75.
- Williamson, After Slavery (1965), pp. 76–77.
- Williamson, After Slavery (1965), p. 77.
- Williamson, After Slavery (1965), p. 78.
- Williamson, After Slavery (1965), p. 79.
- Novak, Wheel of Servitude (1978), p. 5. "The vagrancy law, which made no racial distinctions, was broadened in its compass, and provision was made for the hiring out of convicted vagrants (here an out was given to those who could convince a judge of their good behavior and future industry, obviously to provide a safety valve for convicted whites) and the penalty was raised from six months to a year. Enticement, harboring, or employing 'runaway servants' was made a penal offense, and the legislature added a new twist, demanding that all employers be shown a written discharge from the laborer's former master.
- DuBois, Black Reconstruction (1935), p. 177.
- Richardson, "Florida Black Codes" (1969), p. 365.
- Richardson, "Florida Black Codes" (1969), p. 366.
- Richardson, Florida Black Codes (1969), p. 374.
- Richardson, "Florida Black Codes" (1969), p. 375.
- Richardson, Florida Black Codes (1969), pp. 376–377.
- Ranney, Joseph A. (2006). In the Wake of Slavery. Praeger. p. 48. ISBN 0-275-98972-0.
- Crouch, "All the Vile Passions" (1993), p. 21.
- Crouch, "All the Vile Passions" (1993), p. 23. "The legislature prohibited blacks from marrying whites or testifying against them, serving on juries, holding office, voting, homesteading on the public domain, and serving in the militia, and confined public education to white children. It provisionally authorized the Board of Managers to purchase twenty-six acres of land for a 'Lunatic Asylum' for the benefit of 'Insane Negroes', if it was deemed 'expedient' to do so. They set aside $10,000 to buy the property and make improvements."
- Crouch, "All the Vile Passions" (1993), p. 24.
- Crouch, "All the Vile Passions" (1993), pp. 26–28.
- Crouch, "All the Vile Passions" (1993), p. 30.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 41.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 61.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 9.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 42–43, 54.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 49–50.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 13.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 50.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 57.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 51.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 71–72.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 39–40, 62.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 58.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 56–57.
- Cohen, At Freedom's Edge (1991), p. 31.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 53.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 76.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 77.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 77–78.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 3.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 102.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 107.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 108.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 112–113.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 105–106.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 117.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), pp. 13, 109.
- Tsesis, The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom (2004), pp. 64–66.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 4.
- Wilson, Black Codes (1965), p. 66.
- Forte, "Spiritual Equality" (1998), p. 604.
- Forte, "Spiritual Equality" (1998), p. 605–608.
- Wormser, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (2003), p. 9.
- Ranney, In the Wake of Slavery (2006), p. 142.
- David Pilgrim, "What Was Jim Crow?", Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia (Ferris State University), 2000/2012.
- Cohen, "Negro Involuntary Servitude in the South" (1976), pp. 31–32. "Contained in embryo in the Black Codes and gaining increasing strength in the years immediately after Reconstruction, the system of involuntary servitude remained largely hidden until 1907."
- Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), pp. 89, 96.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 2.
- Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 53–53.
- Stewart, "Black Codes and Broken Windows" (1998), p. 2262.
- Goluboff, "Lost Origins of Civil Rights" (2001), p. 1657–1658.
- Forte, "Spiritual Equality" (1998), p. 609.
- Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), p. 97.
- Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), p. 89. "It came as a shock, then, in 1901, when a new kind of slavery was discovered. It was called peonage after the labor practice in Mexico and through an unlikely set of circumstances violated an 1867 federal state in the United States. The law lay dormant for thirty-four years, but peonage was widespread in the South by the turn of the century, and it was especially virulent in the cotton belt, the Mississippi Delta, and the turpentine belt."
- Stewart, "Black Codes and Broken Windows" (1998), p. 2263.
- Stewart, "Black Codes and Broken Windows" (1998), pp. 2263–2264.
- Stewart, "Black Codes and Broken Windows" (1998), pp. 2268–2270.
- Bruce A. Dixon, "Black Mass Incarceration – Is It New? Is It Jim Crow? Is the Prison-Industrial Complex Real? And What Difference Does It Make", Black Agenda Report, 27 March 2013.
- Jaron Browne, "Rooted in Slavery: Prison Labor Exploitation"; Race, Poverty & Environment 14(2), 2007; reprinted in 17(1), Spring 2010.
- Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), p. 95.
- Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), pp. 93–94.
- Daniel, "Metamorphosis of Slavery" (1979), p. 94."Yet West Indian planters were not as successful as were southern planters in perpetuating involuntary servitude among freedmen. Despite vagrancy and contract laws in Jamaica, compulsion did not work. […] In the United States the legal machinery and violence were more successful in forcing plantation laborers to work."
- Emmer, "The Price of Freedom" (1992), p. 23. "By breaking their colonial links, the undeveloped or underdeveloped countries in Asia and Africa were expected to be able finally to follow the path of sustained economic growth that Europe and North America had walked in the past. In reality, the act of decolonization itself did not change the economic position of the newly independent countries, and in some cases decolonization actually slowed economic growth or even reversed it, because the scarce factors of production were used in creating an army or in experimenting with a different division of land."
- Emmer, "The Price of Freedom" (1992), pp. 26–28.
- Emmer, "The Price of Freedom" (1992), p. 24.
- Belz, Herman. A New Birth of Freedom: The Republican Party and Freedmen's Rights, 1861–1866. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1976; New York: Fordham University Press, 2000. ISBN 9780823220113
- Cohen, William. At Freedom's Edge: Black Mobility and the Southern White Quest for Racial Control, 1861–1915. Louisiana State University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8071-1621-1
- Cohen, William. "Negro Involuntary Servitude in the South, 1865–1940: A Preliminary Analysis." Journal of Southern History 42(1), February 1976. Accessed via JStor, 29 June 2013.
- Crouch, Barry A. "'All the Vile Passions': The Texas Black Code of 1866". Southwestern Historical Quarterly 97(1), July 1993. Accessed via JStor, 9 July 2013.
- Daniel, Pete. "The Metamorphosis of Slavery, 1865–1900". Journal of American History 66(1), June 1979. Accessed via JStor, 4 July 2013.
- DuBois, W. E. B. Black Reconstruction: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880. New York: Russell & Russell, 1935.
- Emmer, Pieter C. "The Price of Freedom: The Constraints of Change in Postemancipation America". In The Meaning of Freedom: Economics, Politics and Culture After Slavery, ed. Frank McGlynn & Seymour Drescher. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8229-3695-X
- Forehand, Beverly. "Striking Resemblance: Kentucky, Tennessee, Black Codes and Readjustment, 1865–1866". Western Kentucky University, Masters Thesis, accepted May 1996.
- Forte, David F. "Spiritual Equality, the Black Codes, and the Americanization of the Freedmen". Loyola Law Review 43, 1998; pp. 569–611.
- Goluboff, Risa L. "The Thirteenth Amendment and the Lost Origins of Civil Rights". Duke Law Journal 50; 1609–1685.
- Novak, Daniel A. The Wheel of Servitude: Black Forced Labor after Slavery. University Press of Kentucky, 1978. ISBN 0813113717
- Painter, Nell Irvin. Creating Black Americans: African-American History And Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780195137552
- Ranney, Joseph A. In the Wake of Slavery: Civil War, Civil Rights, and the Reconstruction of Southern Law. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006. ISBN 0-275-98972-0
- Richardson, Joe M. "Florida Black Codes". Florida Historical Quarterly 47(4), April 1969; pp. 365 – 379. Accessed via JStor, 29 June 2013.
- Stewart, Gary. "Black Codes and Broken Windows: The Legacy of Racial Hegemony in Anti-Gang Civil Injunctions". Yale Law Journal 107(7), May 1998; pp. 2249–2279. Accessed via ProQuest, 4 July 2013. (Also see EBSCO Host.)
- Tsesis, Alexander. The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History. New York University Press, 2004. ISBN 0814782760
- Williamson, Joel. After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, 1861–1877. University of North Carolina Press, 1965.
- Wilson, Theodore Brantner. The Black Codes of the South. University of Alabama Press, 1965.
- Wormser, Richard. The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Macmillan, 2003. ISBN 9780312313265
- Birnbaum, Jonathan and Taylor, Clarence, eds. (2000). Civil Rights Since 1787: A Reader on the Black Struggle, New York University Press ISBN 0-8147-8215-9
- Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863–1877 (Harpercollins: 1988) ISBN 0-06-015851-4
- Horton, James Oliver and Horton, Lois E. (1998). In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860
- Litwack, Leon F. (1998). Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow, Alfred A. Knopf
- Litwack, Leon F. (1980). Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery Pulitzer Prize ISBN 0-394-74398-9
- Lowery, Charles D. and Marszalek, John F. (1992). Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: From Emancipation to the Present Greenwood Press
- Middleton, Stephen (1993). The Black Laws in the Old Northwest : A Documentary History
- Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson (1917). A History of the United States since the Civil War, New York, Macmillan Company
- Waldrep, Christopher (1996). "Substituting Law for the Lash: Emancipation and Legal Formalism in a Mississippi County Court" Journal of American History 1996 82(4): 1425–1451. ISSN 0021-8723 Fulltext: in Jstor. Actual operation of the codes in Mississippi courts.
Text of laws
- Black Codes in the Former Confederate States
- Texas State Historical Association: Black Codes by Carl H. Moneyhon
- Black codes and Jim Crow laws in South Carolina
- Slavery by Another Name by Doug A. Blackmon
- The Southern "Black Codes" of 1865–66 Article, Discussion Questions, and Activity from Constitutional Rights Foundation
- The Illinois Black Code by Roger D. Bridges (pre-1865)