What It Means To You If Slavery Never Really Ended.

We all know that slavery doesn’t exist in the United States. It has been 154 years since the end of the Civil War and the institution of slavery in the United States. At least that’s what the history books tell us. At least that’s what my history teacher said.

To Redeem The South

After the Civil War and Reconstruction, there was a concerted and systematic effort by whites in the South to “redeem” their lost tradition. The Redeemers, as they were known, worked to undo the Reconstruction Era changes that had allowed African Americans a free and equal opportunity, imperfectly, for the first time in the American system and society.

The most intrusive effort to redeem the South came in the form of laws, collectively known as the Black Codes. They were different from states to state, but they all achieved the same purpose. The reduction of African Americans into a slave-like workforce that would preserve the economic and social traditions that had always existed prior to the Civil War.

Today we will examine one aspect of the Black Codes. The focus of this part of the law is on control of African Americans through residency and taxation.

African Americans were required under the law to work. They had to prove they had constant and legal employment. Failure to be employed would lead to charges of vagrancy -homelessness, then arrest and then imprisonment. Once convicted of a legal crime, the 13th Amendment allowed for the slave labor of convicts to be employed without violation.

Yes, the Constitution specifically allows for the enslavement of criminals.



The Freedmen’s Pauper Fund

But if the freedman refused or could not work, the law created an additional element of oppression upon those who could work. The Freedman’s Pauper Fund.

The Black Codes read as follows:

Section 6. Be it further enacted, that the same duties and liabilities existing among white persons of this state shall attach to freedmen, free Negroes, and mulattoes to support their indigent families and all colored paupers; and that, in order to secure a support for such indigent freedmen, free Negroes, and mulattoes, it shall be lawful, and it is hereby made the duty of the boards of county police of each county in this state, to levy a poll or capitation tax on each and every freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, between the ages of eighteen and sixty years, not to exceed the sum of s I annually, to each person so taxed, which tax, when collected, shall be paid into the county treasurer’s hands and constitute a fund to be called the Freedman’s Pauper Fund, which shall be applied by the commissioners of the poor for the maintenance of the poor of the freedmen, free Negroes. and mulattoes of this state, under such regulations as may be established by the boards of county police, in the respective counties of this state.


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167 [emphasis added]

The tax levied upon all freedmen would keep them in additional threat of arrest and enslavement, legally, under the law. The tax applied only to freedmen, and not to white, who were exempt because of their race.

Enslaved to pay the tax

Refusal to pay the Freedmen’s Pauper Tax resulted in the same, expected outcome.

Section 7. Be it further enacted, that if any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto shall fail or refuse to pay any tax levied according to the provisions of the 6th Section of this act, it shall be prima facie evidence of vagrancy, and it shall be the duty of the sheriff to arrest such freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, or such person refusing or neglecting to pay such tax, and proceed at once to hire, for the shortest time, such delinquent taxpayer to anyone who will pay the said tax, with accruing costs, giving preference to the employer, if there be one.


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167 [emphasis added]

The control of freedmen by the Black codes can be seen below, in Section 5. In it we can see how the living conditions of freedmen were subject to evaluation by the law, and if found wanting, the freedom of the freedmen could be limited or denied.

A Law That Does Not Apply To Whites

Section 5. Be it further enacted, that every freedman, free Negro, and mulatto shall, on the second Monday of January 1866, and annually thereafter, have a lawful home or employment, and shall have a written evidence thereof, as follows, to wit: if living in any incorporated city, town, or village, a license from the mayor thereof; and if living outside of any incorporated city, town, or village, from the member of the board of police of his beat, authorizing him or her to do irregular and job work, or a written contract, as provided in Section 6 of this act, which licenses may be revoked for cause, at any time, by the authority granting the same.


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167

Unlike their white counterparts, the freedmen had to prove they had employment in the town they were living. Being present in a town without proof of employment would be considered vagrancy, a crime. As being found guilty of a crime, a freedman without proof of employment could be enslaved under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The legal trickery here is evil and ingenious.


The Incentive to Hunt for Freedmen

In Section 7, however, the trickery gets even more blatant, as the use of economic control becomes systematic and universal.

Section 7. Be it further enacted, that every civil officer shall, and every person may, arrest and carry back to his or her legal employer any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto who shall have quit the service of his or her employer before the expiration of his or her term of service without good cause, and said officer and person shall be entitled to receive for arresting and carrying back every deserting employee aforesaid the sum of $5, and 10 cents per mile from the place of arrest to the place of delivery, and the same shall be paid by the employer, and held as a setoff for so much against the wages of said deserting employee:


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167

In Section 7 we can see how the system of control was set up with specific mileage and cost calculated in advance. This systematic charge for returning freedmen to their employment is evidence that the law has become a farce, masquerading as a legal, unbiased tool for the administration of equal justice. In fact it is a tool for the enslavement of the freedmen, whose forced labor was the bedrock of the Southern agricultural economy.

Provided, that said arrested party, after being so returned, may appeal to a justice of the peace or member of the board of police of the county, who, on notice to the alleged employer, shall try summarily whether said appellant is legally employed by the alleged employer and his good cause to quit said employer; either party shall have the right of appeal to the county court, pending which the alleged deserter shall be remanded to the alleged employer or otherwise disposed of as shall be right and just, and the decision of the county court shall be final.


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167

This means that after being hunted down and captured, and paying for the privilege of being hunted and captured, the freedman must be held in jail and forced to work for his former employer. The court will later, at a date unset, if the reason for a freedman leaving his employment might be legitimate.

Paying for the privileged of being arrested

Section 8. Be it further enacted, that upon affidavit made by the employer of any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, or other credible person before any justice of the peace or member of the board of police, that any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, legally employed by said employer, has illegally deserted said employment, such justice of the peace or member of the board of police shall issue his warrant or warrants, returnable before himself, or other such officer, directed to any sheriff, constable, or special deputy, commanding him to arrest said deserter and return him or her to said employer, and the like proceedings shall be had as provided in the preceding section; and it shall be lawful for any officer to whom such warrant shall be directed to execute said warrant in any county of this state, and that said warrant may be transmitted without endorsement to any like officer of another county, to be executed and returned as aforesaid, and the said employer shall pay the cost of said warrants and arrest and return, which shall be set off for so much against the wages of said deserter.


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167

The freedman might run away, but upon leaving would be hunted down. The charge for running away would be paid by the freedman, having his wages charged for the privilege of being hunted down and returned to the employment of his master/employer.

Section 9. Be it further enacted, that if any person shall persuade or attempt to persuade, entice, or cause any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto to desert from the legal employment of any person before the expiration of his or her term of service, or shall knowingly employ any such deserting freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, or shall knowingly give or sell to any such deserting freedman, free Negro, or mulatto any food, raiment, or other thing, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $25 and not more than $200 and the costs; and, if said fine and costs shall not be immediately paid, the court shall sentence said convict to not exceeding two months’ imprisonment in the county jail, and he or she shall moreover be liable to the party injured in damages:


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167

Anti-Good-Samaritan Law

The threat of freedmen leaving the South was always present in the minds of the whites. In order to prevent the freedmen from leaving for better jobs and opportunities, the law allows for the arrest, imprisonment and fining of anyone who might help freedmen to pursue the American dream. In short, there is a penalty for anyone who tries to help African Americans to escape from their enslavement.

Provided, if any person shall, or shall attempt to, persuade, entice, or cause any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto to desert from any legal employment of any person with the view to employ said freedman, free Negro, or mulatto without the limits of this state, such person, on conviction, shall be fined not less than $50 and not more than $1500 and costs; and, if said fine and costs shall not be immediately paid, the court shall sentence said convict to not exceeding six months’ imprisonment in the county jail,


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167

This is similar to the Fugitive Slave Act that was passed before the Civil War, one of many that tried to enforce the participation of everyone in maintaining African Americans in bondage.

But in the Post Civil War Era, known as Reconstruction, this could not be allowed. Of course, it was allowed, because of a tricky legal argument that could deny the racial discrimination of the Black Codes.

In order to comply with the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Black Codes included language that made it appear as if equality for freedmen was possible. In reality, of course, this was not true.

Section 10. Be it further enacted, that it shall be lawful for any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto to charge any white person, freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, by affidavit, with any criminal offense against his or her person or property; and, upon such affidavit, the proper process shall be issued and executed as if said affidavit was made by a white person; and it shall be lawful for any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, in any action, suit, or controversy pending or about to be instituted, in any court of law or equity of this state to make all needful and lawful affidavits, as shall be necessary for the institution, prosecution, or defense of such suit or controversy.


Source: Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, held in Jackson, October, November and December, 1965, Jackson, 1866, pp. 82-93, 165-167

Any freedman who was bold enough to challenge his situation in an affidavit would be targeted, of course. Un-named in the Black Codes was the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization, still in operation in the 21st Century, that would routinely murder freedmen if they were to assert equal privileges under the law. The swearing of an affidavit would be a public document, with addresses and names clearly listed for all to see. The police, magistrates and local officials in most places were associated with, or active members of, the KKK. This provision is a farce on its face.

SOURCE: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/mississippiblackcode.html

Author: Tyler Rust

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