Article 1-Black Codes
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Article 1-Black Codes

Course Number: HIST 1320, Spring 2008

College/University: Texas State

Word Count: 963

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This article by Jerrell H. Shofner is mainly about Florida's Black Codes. These "black codes" were laws that were intended both to guarantee the subservice of the entire black population and to assure the continued division of Southern Society along strict racial lines. These black codes were only the first set of measures designed to preserve the "Southern way of life." Other measures such as...

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article This by Jerrell H. Shofner is mainly about Florida's Black Codes. These "black codes" were laws that were intended both to guarantee the subservice of the entire black population and to assure the continued division of Southern Society along strict racial lines. These black codes were only the first set of measures designed to preserve the "Southern way of life." Other measures such as the "Jim Crow" laws, which legalized segregation in public facilities along with other concepts, were followed. Such concepts and laws prevented blacks from rising above the lowest social economic group, or even to protest effectively. The article starts off by talking about Dr. Deborah Coggins , a white health officer for Madison, Jefferson, and Taylor counties. Dr. Deborah Coggins was dismissed from her position because according to North Floridians and other whites, Dr. Coggins had violated one of the strictest taboos of her community when "she ate with the darkies." It was against the law for blacks and whites to socialize in the 1950s in Florida. The delegates to the 1865 constitutional convention and the members of the 1865-1866 legislature who created the Florida black codes saw blacks as mentally inferior and incompetent to order their own affairs and to them rejection to the superior white race was their natural condition. Florida had a slave code regulating almost every activity in the lives of blacks. It was understandable that the lawmakers of 1865-1866 would draw on their past experiences and on the codes that applied to slaves and free blacks. Radicals in congress believed that slavery had been abolished, but nothing had been done to the status of the "free negro." Therefore, "Freedmen" could not possibly occupy a higher position in the scale of rights than had the "free negro" before the war. Provisional Governor William Marvin warned that Congress would intervene unless the state accepted the concept of Negro freedom and gave the freedmen equal protection of the law. The state legislature ignored this warning and created laws dealing with crime and punishment, vagrancy, apprenticeship, marriages, taxation, labor contracts, and the judicial system, all of which made up the "black codes." These laws clearly separated blacks into a different type of citizenship, once again making them inferior to whites.A list of crimes and punishments were assigned. The punishments varied from the death penalty, fines, public whippings and the pillory. For the first time, a Negro was defined as any person with one-eight Negro blood. Revenue laws seemed discriminatory as well. Negroes usually didn't learn about certain taxes that had to be paid by them and were usually punished by being sold for their labor for a period that seemed unfair. This caught much attention in the Northern press and congressmen believed this to be a substitute for slavery which had just been abolished. Radicals in Congress concluded that Negroes couldn't expect treatment equal as long as the same Florida leaders remained in power. After much debate in 1866, Congress overturned the Johnson government in the South and implemented Congressional Reconstruction in 1867-1868. Negro suffrage along with the newly-founded Florida Republican party was not accepted by most whites and was considered invasion of the rights of the state. Whites believed they would be able to control the way blacks voted, but when blacks understandably ignored their former masters in favor of the new Republican leaders, native whites turned to violence as a way to fix this problem. Violence increased as soon as the military commander withdrew his troops. Bands of hooded horsemen would frighten, beat, and murder rural Negroes. Congress responded by placing supervisors at every polling place in the southern states. Despite the efforts of the Grant's administration, white Conservative-Democratic parties recaptured most southern states. White Floridians began rewriting their laws creating a society that resembled a society similar to the "black codes society" in 1865-1866. Poll taxes along with other statutes, led to disfranchisement of blacks and dissolution of the Republican Party. In 1889, a series of Jim Crow laws were passed which legalized segregation even though it already existed by custom. By the early twentieth century white Floridians lived in a society whose customs, ideology, and law code were once more in harmony. Some even considered sending Negroes to Africa to solve racial problems. Violence was only the most visible surface of a racially segregated society. Nearly all professional and white collar jobs were limited to whites, and even when employment by both races was comparable, compensation was not equal. This was finally fixed in 1948 when the Truman administration called for fair employment practices and the Democratic platform endorsed the idea. White Floridians were furious with the Brown v. Board of Education case, and did as much as possible to maintain segregation and protect Florida citizens from any effort of the national government interfering with their state government. Although there was little to no progress toward school integration, the civil rights movement spread and accelerated to other areas. White Floridians resisted from these attacks by referring to their state laws, but with constant pressure from the courts the legality of segregation soon collapsed. Things only seemed to get better for blacks as the hideous lynchings of the early twentieth century were decreasing as Congress started considering antilynching legislation. Education funds were larger in quantity as the NAACP began winning its desegregation cases. Finally the Jim Crow legal system had been removed by the late 1960s. Racial divisions of American society are still a problem, but they are no longer being dealt with at the level they once were. Although a few Floridians aren't satisfied with the outcome, they have to abide by it because they are reinforced by the law.

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