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The Black Codes

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The Black Codes

The Black Codes were laws passed on the state and local level mainly in the rural Southern states in the United

States to restrict the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans. While some northern states also

passed legislation discriminating against African Americans before the Civil War, the term Black Codes is

most commonly associated with legislation passed by Southern states after the Civil War in an attempt to

control the labor, movements and activities of African Americans.

An Act to Confer Civil Rights on Freedmen, and for other Purposes

Section1. All freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes may sue and be sued, implead and be impleaded, in

all the courts of law and equity of this State, and may acquire personal property, and chooses in action, y

descent or purchase, and may dispose of the same in the same manner and to the same extent that

white persons may: Provided, That the provisions of this section shall not be so construed as to allow any

freedman, free negro or mulatto to rent or lease any lands or tenements except in incorporated cities or

towns, in which places the corporate authorities shall control the same.

Section2. All freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes may intermarry with each other, in the same

manner and under the same regulations that are provided by law for white persons: Provided, that the

clerk of probate shall keep separate records of the same.

Section3. All freedmen, free negroes or mullatoes who do now and have herebefore lived and cohabited

together as husband and wife shall be taken and held in law as legally married, and the issue shall be

taken and held as legitimate for all purposes; and it shall not be lawful for any freedman, free negro or

mulatto to intermarry with any white person; nor for any person to intermarry with any freedman, free

negro or mulatto; and any person who shall so intermarry shall be deemed guilty of felony, and on

conviction thereof shall be confined in the State penitentiary for life; and those shall be deemed

freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes who are of pure negro blood, and those descended from a negro

to the third generation, inclusive, though one ancestor in each generation may have been a white person.

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Section4. In addition to cases in which freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes are now by law competent

witnesses, freedmen, free negroes or mulattoes shall be competent in civil cases, when a party or parties

to the suit, either plaintiff or plaintiffs, defendant or defendants; also in cases where freedmen, free

negroes and mulattoes is or are either plaintiff or plaintiffs, defendant or defendants. They shall also be

competent witnesses in all criminal prosecutions where the crime charged is alleged to have been

committed by a white person upon or against the person or property of a freedman, free negro or

mulatto: Provided, that in all cases said witnesses shall be examined in open court, on the stand; except,

however, they may be examined before the grand jury, and shall in all cases be subject to the rules and

tests of the common law as to competency and credibility.

Section5. Every freedman, free negro and mulatto shall, on the second Monday of January, one

thousand eight hundred and sixty-six, and annually thereafter, have a lawful home or employment, and

shall have written evidence thereof as follows, to wit: if living in any incorporated city, town, or village, a

license from that mayor thereof; and if living outside of an 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 in this act; which license may be revoked for cause at any time

by the authority granting the same.

Section6. All contracts for labor made with freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes for a longer period

than one month shall be in writing, and a duplicate, attested and read to said freedman, free negro or

mulatto by a beat, city or county officer, or two disinterested white persons of the county in which the

labor is to performed, of which each party shall have one: and said contracts shall be taken and held as

entire contracts, and if the laborer shall quit the service of the employer before the expiration of his term

of service, without good cause, he shall forfeit his wages for that year up to the time of quitting.

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Section7. 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 five

dollars, and ten cents per mile from the place of arrest to the place of delivery; and the same shall be




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