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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Part V, Forced Labor and Black Codes Post 14th Amendment

The roots of government ordered apartheid in the United States was not just during slavery but continued beyond the passage of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery, and apartheid and Jim Crow continued into the 20th century.

Apartheid is a government law, policy, or legal system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race. Post the 13th Amendment in 1865, apartheid in the US became legally enacted through harsh black codes, Jim Crow laws. 

Three years later, in 1868 after the passage of the 14th Amendment which attempted to stop states’ restrictions of rights of Blacks, apartheid, euphemistically known as “Jim Crow”  nevertheless continued. This government ordered strict-segregation-by-race was established by statutes and ordinances that detailed and limited every aspect of a black person’s life, restricted their civil rights, limited their freedom of movement, where they could walk, prohibited their use of parks and from entering other places. You can read about the caste system here.

Black Codes Made Newly Freed Slaves a Cheap or Free Labor Source

Many states enacted Black Codes to ensure that newly freed slaves would be available as a cheap or free labor force after the abolition of slavery. The Black Codes limited the amount of compensation a former slave was allowed to received receive for work. The Black Codes were a legal artifice to place newly emancipated black persons into indentured servitude to obtain cheap labor for the employers and in some instances the seizing of their children for labor purposes.

Many states required blacks to make annual contracts for their labor in writing as detailed by historians of the post Civil War. If a person refused, they risked being fined, arrested, and forced into unpaid labor. If they signed a contract but ran away, they forfeited their wages for the year.

It was an extreme caste system in other ways. Mayors of towns and cities in which they worked required them to present licenses that gave them authorization to work and stated their place of residence. If a person was found to be a fugitive of this contractual state-enforced-labor, the police arrested him and brought him back to his employer. Although a black man forced into labor post slavery and post the 14th Amendment, was called a “freedman”, he was hardly free.

Males under the age of 21 and females under the age of 18 were apprenticed and were not excluded from these harsh laws. As was the practice and law in slavery, if the young freedman as apprentice left the employer (master’s) employment, the codes authorized the  master to pursue and recapture the young person. If the youngster refused to return without just cause, she/ he could be arrested and imprisoned.

White persons could earn a living by locating these escapees from forced labor. They were paid $5.00 a person and mileage fees for finding and returning the escapee to the employer.

Mississippiwas the first state to legislate a new Black Code after the Civil war. It restricted blacks to rent land only within a city or town limit which had the effect of preventing them from earning money through farming. The codes were designed to provide free and or cheap labor force post slavery by numerous legal statutory provisions such as defining how a person could be deemed a “vagrant” and required Blacks to present in January of each year written proof of employment. If they were unable to do so, they were deemed to be a vagrant and arrested. The arresting officer would be rewarded and paid $5.00, which money was to be taken from the vagrant’s future wages. In statutory provisions akin to the former fugitive slave laws, these provisions mandated the return of runaway workers, who would lose their wages for the year.

Part of this Mississippi Black Codes of 1865 is as follows:

That all freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes in this State, over the age of eighteen years, found on the second Monday in January, 1866, or thereafter, without lawful employment or business, or found unlawfully assembling themselves together, either in the day or night time, and all white persons so assembling themselves with freedmen, free negroes or mulattoes, or usually associating with freedmen, free negroes or mulattoes, on terms of equality, or living in adultery or fornication with a freed woman, free negro or mulatto, shall be deemed vagrants, and on conviction thereof shall be fined in a sum not exceeding, in the case of a freedman, free negro, or mulatto, fifty dollars, and a white man two hundred dollars, and imprisoned, at the discretion of the court, the free negro not exceeding ten days, and the white man not exceeding six months.

A mayor of town or police could require a working black to show their license authorizing them to work and where they lived.  Fugitives from labor were to be arrested and carried back to their employers. Whites persons were severely penalized if they attempted to interfere in this caste system. It was a misdemeanor crime for a person to have persuaded a “freedman” to leave his employer, or to feed food to a runaway freedman. A violation of this was a misdemeanor and punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Persons deemed vagrants were fined heavily, and if they could not pay the sum, they were to be hired out to perform work for another until the claim was satisfied. It was an offence, to be punished by a fine of $50 and imprisonment for thirty days, to give or sell intoxicating liquors to a Black. If a Black could not pay the fines after legal proceedings, he was to be hired according to the public outcry by the local law enforcement to the person giving the lowest bid.

 Apartheid and Jim Culture flourished in many states well into the 20th century, making a dangerous passage for blacks who veered outside of its neighborhoods and cultural sociological boundaries.

Jim Crow laws and the KKK in the  20th century made any stepping out of Jim Crow culture dangerous.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to racial harassment and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired. If you have experienced racism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.

 



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