Author:
Olen Budke
Subject:
U.S. History
Material Type:
Lesson
Level:
High School, Community College / Lower Division
Tags:
  • Black Codes
  • Jim Crow
  • Race: African-American
  • Reconstruction
  • Southern Strategy
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Language:
    English

    Lesson: Law and Racial Hegemony in Post-emancipation America

    Lesson: Law and Racial Hegemony in Post-emancipation America

    Overview

    Using a comparative analysis of two sets of laws (one pre-emancipation and one post-emancipation), this lesson provides students an opportunity to better understand how the meaning and boundaries of American freedom have been contested ground throughout history, and how laws were once used to promote white supremacy and restrict black mobility.

    What is Freedom? Law and Racial Hegemony in the Post-emancipation Years

    Assigmment instructions, text set, and questions are included in the lesson materials.

    Following the Civil War and emancipation, millions of African Americans were promised freedom and a permanent end to slavery.  But freedom from slavery did not guarantee equality under the law.  White supremacists in the South immediately embarked on efforts to restrict black liberty and restore pre-war economic and social hierarchies.  Beginning in 1865, state and local governments in the former Confederacy weaponized the judicial system through the use of black codes and other race laws with the purpose of controlling black labor and relegating African Americans to a subservient status.

    By comparing the Mississippi Black Codes of 1865 to a series of 17th and 18th-century slave laws from the colony of Virginia, it is evident that African Americans living in the post-war South were forced into conditions that closely resembled antebellum slave society.

    This lesson provides students an opportunity to examine primary source documents in order to better understand how the meaning and boundaries of American freedom have been contested ground throughout history, and how laws were once used to promote white supremacy and restrict black mobility.