Jim Crow Laws and Black Codes Essay

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April 9th, 1865 marked the end of the Civil War. The Reconstruction era began in 1865 after the Civil War as an effort to readmit the confederate states into the Union. In December 6th, 1865, the states ratified the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery and compulsory labor unless it is used as a punishment for a crime. Reconstruction began in 1865 after the Civil War as an effort to readmit the confederate states into the Union. The end of the Civil War and slavery brought big changes in America, but with change comes resistance, opposition, and preservation of old customs and beliefs. For the South, the Civil War destroyed their economy, which was solely based upon the exploitation of cheap labor in agriculture. The south’s prejudice towards blacks and their worries about their economy led to the preservation of their economy by ensuring cheap and free labor. The South created the Black Codes to keep a sense of normalcy, to help the economy, and to keep black people in their place. The Black Codes were laws specifically meant for black people. The American government’s failure to protect the rights of African Americans because of the state government’s creation of Black Codes and the loophole in the 13th Amendment that the federal government passed, led to convict leasing, the ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, the creation of Jim Crow Laws, and convict leasing which caused high tensions between Americans.

The loophole in the 13th Amendment became the backbone of convict leasing, a practice which ensured slavery in the form of prison labor, a substitute for cheap labor in the South. The Black Codes were the stepping stones to the use of convict leasing. The Black Codes were very specific laws that regulated black people’s live strictly. In South Carolina’s Black Codes, vagrancy laws helped arrest black people for simple reasons like unemployment. Pig Laws were also used to raise the penalties of misdemeanors so that it equaled a penalty for a felony which gave prisoners longer sentences. A longer sentence meant more cheap labor for white people. With black people being arrested and jailed, they were loaned to private business under labor contracts to pay off their debts from their offenses and to work off their punishments. Black Codes also had laws that helped create the standard for labor contracts and what was considered acceptable in a labor contract. Unfortunately, the standard for a labor contract was very low, as servants were treated worse than slaves and had horrible working conditions. In South Carolina, white people could “moderately” whip black people as a form of discipline because it was acceptable in a labor contract. The process of arresting a black man and then loaning him to a private business for cheap became known as convict leasing. Convict leasing had horrible effects as it gave Americans a disproportionate view of the populations in the prison system. It gave the impression that most convicts were black, which reinforced the beliefs that black people were unworthy criminals that turned to savagery due to the loss of slavery. It gave rise to stereotypes, such as black men are criminals, which is still seen today. This was not true as black people were arrested for silly crimes which were reported as felonies, so that they could be used as a cheap labor force under the 13th amendment which allowed slavery only as a punishment.

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With the emergence of the Black Codes, it set the precedent for new types of racial laws called the Jim Crow Laws. The existence of the Black Codes paved the way for Jim Crow laws because it showed citizens and lawmakers that it was possible to have racist laws in a post civil war society. An early version of a Jim Crow law appeared in Louisiana under the name the Separate Car Act, which required separate cars for white and black people. In an act of civil disobedience, Homer Plessy, challenges the law by sitting in the white car section only of the train. Plessy would be arrested and his case would eventually go to the Supreme Court. Plessy would then use the argument that the Separate Car Act violated the 14th Amendment. After hearing the case, the Supreme Court decided that the act was not in violation of the 14th Amendment because there was no “difference in equality of the railway cars” (oyez.com). The ruling led to the doctrine separate but equal. The ruling legalized racist laws as long as they followed the doctrine of separate but equal. The case changed everything in America as Jim Crow laws became widespread nationwide. The Jim Crow laws would stay in effect until it was dealt with almost seventy years later in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement.

The Black Codes set the precedent for the use of laws in support of white supremacy. The words used in the Black Codes exemplified the racist attitudes at the time. In South Carolina parts of the codes use the words “master” and “servant” when describing the laws about labor contracts and regulations. Lawmakers could have chosen different words and yet they specifically used master and servant to emulate the feelings during slavery. The Black Codes gave white’s a sense of superiority because the laws specifically targeted blacks, especially freed slaves, into similar conditions of slavery. They were forced to work in plantations or big business for cheap labor with horrible conditions and were subject to racial hierarchy wherever they went. The Plessy v. Ferguson ruling made the creation of Jim Crow laws possible and legal through the doctrine of “separate but equal”. The Jim Crow Laws were laws that segregated white and black people in school, restaurants, public facilities, etc. It was discriminatory as it favored whites over blacks by giving black people inferior treatment and facilities. It is also degrading to see a sign in public that said “for colored people only”. The laws forced them to sit in the back of the bus. If more white people came and there were no seats, they were to give up their seats. Refusal to obey the laws led to an arrest and time in jail. The laws caused much tension between the two races as their segregation didn’t allow for interaction, so people’s perceptions of others were just based on stereotypes and false information. The tensions would be at their peak during the Civil Rights movement when some peaceful protests were met with violent opposition. The segregation would also lead to the Civil Rights Movement because of the African-American’s pent up frustration with waiting for equal rights for all.

The ruling in Plessy v Ferguson, the creation of Jim Crow laws, and convict leasing, are examples of the effects of the Black Codes and the loophole in the 13th Amendment which caused high tensions between Americans. The Black Codes and the loophole in the 13th Amendment help enslave black people into a system called convict leasing which gave rise to modern-day stereotypes. The Black Codes helped paved the way for the creation of new racist laws called the Jim Crow laws which would be in effect for about 70 years. The Black Codes also helped the ruling the Plessy v. Ferguson case, as it gave lawmakers the ability create an early version of a Jim Crow.

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