Black Codes

The Black Codes that were passed by various Southern states when Andrew Johnson was president were an indication that freedom would not be easy to achieve. 

The Mississippi Black Code of 1865 was entitled "An Act to Confer Civil Rights on Freedmen" – but the rights of people who were at least one-eighth African American were limited to certain restricted property rights, the right to sue and be sued, and the right to enter into contracts.  Intermarriage with a white person was a felony.

The law controlled how freedmen spent their time and ensured that they could be made to work as agricultural laborers.  A passage stated: "All rogues and vagabonds, idle and dissipated persons, beggars, jugglers, or persons practicing unlawful games or plays, runaways, common drunkards, common night-walkers, pilferers, lewd, wanton, or lascivious persons, in speech or behavior, common railers and brawlers, persons who neglect their calling or employment, misspend what they earn, or do not provide for the support of themselves or their families, or dependents, and all other idle and disorderly persons, including all who neglect all lawful business, habitually misspend their time by frequenting houses of ill-fame, gaming-houses, or tippling shops, shall be deemed and considered vagrants..."  Such "vagrants," who could not afford to pay a $50 fine, would be made to work for whoever paid the fine for him or her. 

The South Carolina Black Code of 1865 included a contract form for Black "servants" who agreed to work for white "masters."  The masters were permitted to whip them as a disciplinary measure. 

The Texas Black Code of 1866 also defined as "colored" individuals with one-eighth or more "African blood."  They could not vote or hold office, or serve on juries.  They faced segregation on trains and in public facilities.  And again, if classified as "vagrants," they were subjected to forced labor on plantations or smaller farms.

The Codes were suspended in 1866 by federal officials who were pushing for a real Reconstruction in the South.  But they would make a comeback as Jim Crow segregation took hold around the region.