Literature Study GuidesMississippi Black Codes

Mississippi Black Codes | Study Guide

Mississippi Legislature

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Mississippi Legislature

Year Passed



Primary Source



At a Glance

  • After the Civil War (1861–65), the white-controlled state governments of the former Confederate states were determined to limit the effects of the end of slavery. In 1865 the Mississippi legislature passed a set of laws called "black codes" that restricted the rights and opportunities of formerly enslaved people.
  • Mississippi was the first state of the former Confederacy to enact black codes, but other states quickly followed its model.
  • Mississippi's black codes focused on four areas—civil rights, the labor of minors, vagrancy (the legal term for homelessness), and crime. In each area the new laws denied equal rights to African Americans and imposed harsh punishments on formerly enslaved persons who broke the laws.
  • African Americans in Mississippi and even some white-owned newspapers in Mississippi protested the "black codes."
  • The harsh limits on African Americans across the South prompted the Republican-controlled Congress to take control of Reconstruction. Congress disbanded the new state governments in the South and placed most states of the former Confederacy under military rule. The result was a brief period during which African Americans played a strong role in forming and running new state governments in the South.


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