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South Carolina African Americans – Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws


Also see African-Americans - Reconstruction - 1865-1900 Main Page


Black codes and Jim Crow laws

After the Civil War, white Southerners moved quickly to eliminate black people's newfound freedom. They wanted to return blacks, in effect, to their prewar status as slaves. In order to do this "legally," they passed new laws that appeared, on the surface, to be neutral and fair to all races. In actuality however, these laws were actually designed specifically to repress black people.

At first these laws were called Black Codes, but because of their deceptive nature, they eventually came to be known as the laws of Jim Crow. Jim Crow was the name of character in a minstrel show. Minstrel shows were popular during that time, and they featured white actors in "black face," or black make-up. Because of this, the name Jim Crow represented the fact that Black Codes were based on racial disguise.

South Carolina began to establish Black Codes immediately. The Constitution of 1865, passed only a few months after the Civil War ended, failed to grant African-Americans the right to vote. It also retained racial qualifications for the legislature. Consequently, black people had no power to combat the unfair laws. Some of the Black Codes that were passed around this time stated:
  • "No person of color shall migrate into and reside in this state, unless, within twenty days after his arrival within the same, he shall enter into a bond with two freeholders as sureties"

  • "Servants shall not be absent from the premises without the permission of the master"

  • Servants must assist their masters "in the defense of his own person, family, premises, or property"

  • No person of color could become an artisan, mechanic, or shopkeeper unless he obtained a license from the judge of the district court – a license that could cost $100 or more.
Click here to learn more about the effects of Jim Crow laws, especially on African-American migration out of South Carolina and out of the South in general.

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