Black codes were quickly passed in Southern states after the end of the Civil War as a way to maintain a societal system as close to slavery as possible. While these codes were made illegal by the national government, the only way to really prevent their use was by sending the military to the South. Once Reconstruction was over, Southern states quickly found ways to reinforce Black codes and laws. Please note, this source uses outdated language to refer to African Americans.
Sec. 1 (defines who a person of color is). Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina That negroes and their issue, even where one ancestor in each succeeding generation to the fourth inclusive is white, shall be deemed persons of color.
Sec. 2 (laws limiting the freedom of free Blacks before the Civil War now apply to all people of color). …All persons of color who are now inhabitants of this State shall be entitled to the same privileges, and are subject to the same burthens and disabilities, as by the laws of the State were conferred on, or were attached to, free persons of color, prior to the ordinance of emancipation, except as the same may be changed by law.
Sec. 7 (a transaction between African Americans worth more than ten dollars must be witnessed by a literate white person). …All contracts between any persons whatever, whereof one or more of them shall be a person of color, for the sale or purchase of any horse, mule, donkey, jennet, neat cattle, hog, sheep or goat, whatever may be the value of such articles, and all contracts between such persons for any other article or articles of property whatever of the value of ten dollars or more; and all contracts executed or executory between such persons for the payment of money of the value of ten dollars or more, shall be void as to all persons whatever, unless the same be put in writing and signed by the vendors or debtors, and witnessed by a white person who can read and write…
Sec. 9 (in court cases involving two white people, African Americans could only testify if both people agreed). …Persons of color not otherwise incompetent shall be capable of bearing evidence in all controversies at law and in equity, where the rights of persons or property of persons of color shall be put in issue, and would be concluded by the judgment or decree of court;… where the violence, fraud, or injury alleged shall be charged to have been done by or to persons of color. In all other civil and criminal cases such evidence shall be deemed inadmissible, unless by consent of the parties of record: Provided, That this section shall not go into effect until jurisdiction in matters relating to freedmen shall be fully committed to the courts of this State: Provided, further, That no person shall be deemed incompetent to bear testimony in such cases because of being a party to the record or in interest…
Citation: “Public Laws of the State of North Carolina Passed by the General Assembly” at the Sessions of 1866 ’67. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/publiclawsofstat186667nor/page/n5. Accessed 5 September 2023.
- What does this source tell you about social freedoms for African Americans during Reconstruction?
- Pick one of the Sections from the source and explain how it provides evidence that supports your answer to the previous question.
- What do the sources tell you about how both the private and public lives of African Americans were affected by Black codes?
Enacted: made into a law
Issue: someone’s biological child/children
succeeding generation to the fourth inclusive is white, shall be deemed persons of color: a Black person’s future generations will still be people of color even if there is intermarriage with white people
Conferred: given or awarded
Ordinance of emancipation: order freeing enslaved people in the United States
Jennet: female donkey
Neat cattle: group of cows
Executory: something to be performed or carried out
Void: no legal force or effect
Equity: legally valid right or claim
Decree: decision or order made by a court
Deemed inadmissible: decide evidence is not allowable in a court case
Jurisdiction: range of legal authority