Black Code of Mississippi

(1865)

In 1865 the Mississippi state legislature passed a series of related laws known as the Black Code. These laws, written within months of the conclusion of the Civil War and styled after the state's antebellum slave code, represented the first effort by white Mississippians to define what freedom and citizenship would mean to recently freed slaves and others of African descent. As the Black Code of Mississippi reveals, the initial legal definition that whites offered suggests that they intended the condition of freedom for blacks to differ little from enslavement.

The Mississippi Black Code was the most extreme example of similar codes that sought to nullify the freedom of former slaves and to define their citizenship as virtual enslavement. The laws consequently offer an example of the attitudes of whites toward freed people and other people of African descent; they also testify to the persistence of those attitudes across time. Finally, the Black Code is significant...

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Benjamin Grubb Humphreys (Library of Congress)

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