Black Codes Definition and Summary: The Black Codes were a series of statutes and laws enacted in 1865 and 1866 by the


Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee,

following the end of the Civil War at the beginning of the Reconstruction Era. The Black Codes were created to restrict the freedom of ex-slaves in the South.

Black Codes Andrew

American President who served in office from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 18 69. One of the important events during his presidency was the Black Codes during the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War.

Representing Employees: Overtime, Harassment, EEOC, Contractual, and other

Black Codes: What were the Black Codes? The Black Codes were laws that were introduced


in the Southern



the freedom of

people (freedmen) and the right to own property, conduct business, buy



land, and move



public spaces such

Southern towns. The Freedom of ex-slaves was restricted in numerous ways including:

Permission to travel


Different laws and punishments

Limited choice in employment and strict labor contracts

Permission required from employers to sell farm produce

Banned from bearing arms








to vote


serve on juries






Black Codes passed? After the Civil War and the passing of the 13th Amendment over 4 million slaves in the Southern states were given their freedom. This led to a massive labor

on the



plantations. It also meant

southern state governments were now responsible for the ex-slaves who had previously been completely under the control of slave owners. Having left the slavery of the plantations many Black American were left without permanent homes

work. The Southerners were frightened that the freed slaves would seek revenge and feared for their families and their homes. They began to look for ways to exercise control. Some took the law into their

hands turning to Vigilantism using force to protect their lives and property which led to the establishment of secret organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Others wanted to maintain the legal route and began passing laws to restrict the ex-slaves new found freedom. The Black Codes included new employment laws, requirements

pay taxes and strict Vagrancy

with requirements for travel passes.

What was the Purpose of the Black Codes? The purpose of the Black Codes was

Regain control over the freed slaves

Inhibit the freedom of freed slaves

Prevent black uprisings

Ensure the continued supply of cheap labor

Maintain segregation

Maintain white supremacy

Black Codes, that included Vagrancy Laws, led to a system of penalties and punishments including Convict Leasing that put freed slaves

into forced labor on the plantations.

Who Created the Black Codes? White Southerners resented being

by Union military governors

the Freedmen’s

officials of

Bureau and the objective was to restore self-rule. In 1865, most of the

Confederate states held constitutional conventions. Only white people were allowed to vote for convention delegates or to participate in the framing of the new

governments and constitutions. The Black Codes were created by white law makers in the South in the legislatures of the states

Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

When was the first of the Black Codes passed? The first of the Black Codes were passed in Mississippi on November 22, 1865, following the end of the Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 10, 1865) during the Reconstruction Era.

How did the Black Codes deny rights? Examples of Black Codes

did the Black Codes deny rights? Each state introduced their own various Black Codes and laws. Examples of the Black Codes and laws that restricted the freedom of ex-slaves include the following:

Labor Contracts: Labor contracts required included a legal document for black “servants” who agreed to work for white “masters”. Terms and conditions of employment were fully documented and signed by a judge. These included strict conducts of behavior and required permission before an ex-slave could leave the premises

Vagrancy: Strict Vagrancy Laws (see below) placed pressure on ex-slaves to sign labor contracts

Crimes and Punishments: Different levels and types of punishment between freedmen and whites. Punishments included chain gangs and convict leasing

Apprenticeships: Courts were authorized to apprentice the black children of vagrants, or orphans, even against their will, to an employer until the age of 21 for males and 18 for females

Civil Rights: The Civil Rights of freedmen were restricted in the Black Codes and unequal to the Civil Rights of whites

Courts: Racially segregated courts

black only

were established for


The Black Codes and Vagrancy Laws Vagrancy Laws were included in the Black Codes because of the concern that freed slaves would leave their communities and reduce the labor supply. Vagrancy Laws were offenses applied to people who were deemed to be vagrants. A vagrant was a person who, although fit to work, was without visible means of support or a permanent home and traveled from from place to place without working. The Vagrancy Laws were extremely vague and covered acts such as loitering. The Vagrancy

in the Black Codes allowed police to arrest people merely on the suspicion they were about to do something illegal. The Vagrancy Laws in the Black Codes meant that

unemployed, homeless freed

could be arrested and then fined as vagrants.

The Black Codes and Vagrancy Laws: Punishments – Chain Gangs and Convict Leasing If the person could not afford the fine they were sentenced to county labor or hired out to a private employer. Those convicted for vagrancy and sentenced to county labor were used to build roads or railroads on chain gangs where they could be whipped by guards if they did not work hard or tried to escape. Plantation owners, or others, who wanted additional labor

to county courthouses to purchase black convicts who would otherwise work on a chain gang. The terrible treatment and deliberate harsh conditions on the chain gangs encouraged prisoners to see work on

plantation as a preferable alternative. Convict leasing was a way of moving freed slaves back into forced labor. A perfectly vicious cycle.