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“B” is for Black Codes

“B” is for Black Codes [1865-1866]. In 1865, with little direction forthcoming from Washington, the states of the former Confederacy drew up “Black Codes” to clarify the standing of African Americans. In December 1865, the General Assembly adopted South Carolina’s “Black Codes.” There were three main laws with extensive articles. The first recognized the abolition of slavery and defined “black” for the first time in the state’s legal code. The second set forth restrictions that actually curtailed rights enjoyed by free persons of color prior to the war. The third section concentrated on the labor question. African Americans could only work as field hands or hired servants—any other occupation required a license from a judge. The Black Codes were an attempt to re-create, within the confines of an altered federal Constitution, as much of the antebellum South as possible.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.