There is a lot of news recently about Ferguson; I wonder how many of you know that Missouri has a long-long history of racial discrimination dating back to, most famously, the Dread Scott Decision. There is also evidence that Ferguson was a “Sun Down town” once upon a time reflecting the segregation of a time some say has passed. Therefore, it is not much of a stretch for the residue of bigotry, racial intolerance, and the same ilk of the past is a strain that devalues people of African descent. It is a fact that the past is reborn and indeed the present.
There is a legal definition of Black Codes. It is a body of laws, statutes, and rules enacted by southern states immediately after the Civil War to regain control over the freed slaves, to maintain white supremacy, and ensure the continued supply of cheap labor. There have been many ways to suppress people over time; unfortunately, African Americans have endured the brunt of these efforts.
Therefore, I can report that it was and still applies to minorities, usually African Americans, who were most affected by these laws to ensure they would remain a permanent underclass. Whereas, others have moved out of their subservient station – well all but the Native American nations. This ideology began as indentured servants, then slavery, segregation, and now could it be conservatism. In each of these classifications, they called these laws Black Codes, which I suppose makes the immoral sanctions sound kinder.
Black Codes were laws passed designed specifically to take away civil rights and civil liberties of African American on the state and local level. This is the reason Conservatives desire a return to “States Rights” and speak of taking back our country because at the state level they can be unimpeded in turning back the hands of time. Although, most of the discriminatory legislation, in terms of Black Codes, were used more often by Southern states to control the labor, movements and activities of newly freed slaves at the end of the Civil War. But as Malcolm X once said, “Anywhere south of Canada was south” meaning wherever you were in America you were subjected to discrimination in terms of the “separate but equal” laws of the land.
The Black Codes of the 1860’s are not the same as the Jim Crow laws. The Black Codes were a reaction to the abolition of slavery and the South’s defeat in the Civil War. Southern legislatures enacted them during Reconstruction. The Jim Crow era began later, nearer to the end of the 19th century after Reconstruction, with its unwritten laws. Then there were sundown laws, which meant Blacks could not live or be caught in certain towns after dark. In some cases, signs were placed at the town’s borders with statements similar to the one posted in Hawthorne California that read; “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne” in the 1930’s. In some cases, exclusions were official town policy, restrictive covenants, or the policy was enforced through intimidation.
After the abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prior to that African Americans were considered 3/5’s human; all former slave states adopted Black Codes. During 1865 every Southern state passed Black Codes that restricted the Freemen, who were emancipated but not yet full citizens. While they pursued re-admission to the Union, the Southern states provided freedmen with limited second-class civil rights and no voting rights. Southern plantation owners feared that they would lose their land. Having convinced themselves that slavery was justified, planters feared African Americans wouldn’t work without coercion. The Black Codes were an attempt to control them and to ensure they did not claim social equality.
The Black Codes outraged public opinion in the North because it seemed the South was creating a form of quasi-slavery to evade the results of the war. After winning large majorities in the 1866 elections, the Republicans put the South under military rule. They held new elections in which the Freedmen could vote. Suffrage was also expanded to poor whites. The new governments repealed all the Black Codes; they were never reenacted – OFFICIALLY. Black Codes were sometimes known as “sunset towns” or “gray towns” that do continue today in the form of million dollar communities – sound familiar.
Today, these are places where minorities are systematically excluded from living in or sometimes even passing through these communities after the sun went down. Sociologists have described this as the nadir of American race relations. Therefore, de facto sundown towns and counties where no black family lives – still exist.
As one historian has noted, “Racial segregation was hardly a new phenomenon because slavery had fixed the status of most blacks, no need was felt for statutory measures segregating the races. These restrictive Black Codes have morphed in one form, or another to achieve its desired effect to maintain a superior status by the powers that be. I am only suggesting that we know and understand history for it will open the mind to what the future may present. Frankly, if you don’t know where you came from you will never get to where you are going. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…