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Racism is one of the ugliest forms of relations between individuals as it presupposes the biased and unfair attitude to representatives of a particular race because of its so-called inferiority. Unfortunately, In the USA, the given pattern had been part of the legal environment for centuries. After the War of Independence and the Civil War, the first signs of abolishment movements emerged. Citizens of the Northern states acquired the new vision of interracial relations characterized by a more tolerant attitude to individuals and equality.
It promoted the slight improvement of minorities’ states. To depress these trends, various regulations throughout the South of the country were created. The Black Codes became one of them. They encompassed all laws needed to save the racialized society and prevent black people from becoming independent. It was performed via numerous regulations limiting all the most critical aspects of an individual’s life. For this reason, evaluating the Mississippi Black Code as an example of a document introducing the legal regulations to infringe people’s rights is critical to understand how limits on marriage, work, and arms helped to enslave people and postpone the rise of abolishment.
The discussed set of rules emerged after the Civil War under the impact of the reconsideration of attitude to African-Americans living in the state. Slavery had the nationwide breadth in the USA at that period of time, but the South was more conservative in its views on this phenomenon. The Mississippi Black Code encompassed the majority of laws regulating all spheres of relations between the African-American population and other people, agencies, employees, and local authorities (“Black Codes”). The Code was created to replace the previous slave regulations existing in Southern states (“Black Codes”).
However, the main goal of the given document was not to improve the state of this population group; on the contrary, this law prevented black people from becoming members of the society of that period of time by introducing multiple limits and discriminative laws. In other words, it was the officially accepted doctrine aimed at the elimination of grounds for the generation of economic wealth and acquiring independence by black people who were considered as a cheap labor force and source of income (Van Daniel 54).
Along with numerous elements of slavery present in this document, there are three that should be analyzed in detail. These are the limitation of the freedom of marriage, the limitation of the freedom of work, and the limitation of the freedom of weapon. All these aspects evidence the biased character of the code and its unfair character.
Limitation of the Freedom of Marriage
The freedom to choose a partner is one of the basic rights of any human being. Every person should be able to select an individual whom he/she loves and create a family that will be able to generate wealth and contribute to the development of the community. However, the Mississippi Black Code presupposed a rude interference in this aspect of people’s lives as it stated that “it shall not be lawful for any freedman, free negro, or mulatto to intermarry with any white person; nor for any white person to intermarry with any freedman, free negro, or mulatto” (“(1866) Mississippi Black Codes”).
The given extract proves the discriminative character of the Code and reveals the elements of slavery hidden in it. Slaves were considered inferior to their owners, and it was impossible to imagine a marriage between them. As it becomes clear from the code, the given pattern was preserved. Black people were still taken as not equal, and they were limited in their opportunities to engage in interracial relations as it would be considered a serious crime that should be punished. The given limitation had been topical up to the middle of the 20the century and interracial marriages were not appreciated by society.
The possible reason for the strict control of sexual life and intimate relations was the unwillingness to allow the blending of races. First, it would result in the emergence of a new culture that would include all the unique peculiarities of these nationalities. Second, it would destroy barriers between races and make preservation of segregation and discrimination more complex because of the appearance of people with undetermined status. For this reason, the regulation introduced by the Black Code had remained topical for generations.
Limitation of the Freedom of Work
Another element of slavery presented in the discussed code is the introduction of strict limits to work, to select an employer, and to quit looking for better wages. For instance, the Code stated:
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 (“(1866) Mississippi Black Codes”)
It means that all minorities mentioned by the document did not have the right to leave because of poor working conditions, inappropriate payment, or biased attitudes. These laws provided multiple opportunities for white employers to use the depressed population as a cheap working force without any guarantees of sufficient treatment or salary. This approach can be compared to the methods used by slave-owners who were sure that their workers would not find another master.
Apprentices were also prohibited from leaving their masters without their consent (“(1866) Mississippi Black Codes”). Moreover, the Black Code presupposed that any black person who was not employed by a particular date could be considered a vagrant and treated appropriately (“(1866) Mississippi Black Codes”). These restrictions were also critical in preserving racialized and strict hierarchical relations between black and white people.
Having no opportunity to change masters, discriminated minorities were not able to struggle for the increase in wages or better working conditions. The given regulation was critical at the rise of abolition. It significantly reduced the black people’s opportunity to meet and discuss some issues topical for them. In such a way, this restriction became a critical element that postponed the emergence of civil rights movements in the state. These facts also prove the discriminative character of the document and its aim at the elimination of opportunities to generate a stable income.
Limitation of the Freedom of Weapon
Finally, the Code introduced the strict prohibition to wearing any arms by depressing categories. It stated that “no freedman, free negro or mulatto … shall keep or carry fire-arms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk or bowie knife” (“(1866) Mississippi Black Codes”). A person was obliged to pay a significant fine if this law was violated. It is another element of slavery included in the discussed set of regulations. The central motif for the introduction of this law was the attempt to deprive black people of the opportunity to struggle for their rights by confiscating any weapons that could be used against them and guaranteeing the observation of other rules.
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Otherwise, having no arms, these people did not have an opportunity to resist. The grounds for the emergence of this pattern can be traced back to the period characterized by the rise of slavery. Being afraid of rebellions and any forms of resistance, planters prohibited their black slaves from using arms and introduced severe punishment for it. It was one of the main forms of control guaranteeing the ability to suppress or eliminate people who tried to fight for their rights. In such a way, the Black Code became a veil used to hide the same patterns and cease the development of abolition movements.
Impact of the Black Code
The Black code promoted a significant impact on the state of depressed minorities in areas where it was accepted. Having a discriminative nature, it created the legal basis for the cultivation of biased patterns among the white population of the USA as they acquired an opportunity to impact the most important spheres of black people’s lives and prevent them from integrating with society and generating wealth (White et al. 89). In other words, this group was still considered a cheap working force that could be used for various tasks.
Altogether, Mississippi Black Code is a document that emerged after the Civil War with the primary aim to replace previous slave laws. However, it became a set of rules that tried to suppress the further development of African-American slaves, so-called freedmen. Counter to the abolishment movements that appeared in the North of the country, the Southern states tried to suppress the growing consciousness of black people because of the historical peculiarities of the area. It can be proven by numerous discriminative aspects found in-laws introduced by the Black Code. For instance, it presupposed significant limits on marriage, work, and weapons.
Regulating these three critical elements of people’s lives, the majority was able to preserve old patterns and exploit them in the ways needed for their enrichment. At the same time, minorities mentioned in the Code had no rights to struggle for their freedom as these regulations strongly prohibited their meetings without a significant legal cause. That is why the Mississippi Black Code contributed to the further depression of the black population, racialization of communities, and created the legal basis for their discrimination regarding the new approach to slavery in the USA.
“Black Codes.” History. Web.
“(1866) Mississippi Black Codes.” BlackPast. Web.
White, Deborah, et al. Freedom on My Mind, Volume 1: A History of African Americans with Documents. Bedford Books, 2012.
Van Daniel, Roderick. Unjustifiably Oppressed: Black Codes of Mississippi. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018.