Black Codes Law and Legal Definition

In 1865, southerners created Black Codes, which served as a way to control and inhibit the freedom of ex-slaves. Codes controlled almost all aspects of life and prohibited African Americans from the freedoms that had been won. Laws were passed by Southern state legislatures during Reconstruction, while Congress was out of session. It led Congress to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment.

Laws were different in each state but most embodied the same kinds of restrictions. Commonly, codes compelled freedmen to work. In many states, if unemployed, African Americans faced the potential of being arrested and charged with vagrancy. Many of those that did work had their day regulated. Codes dictated their hours of labor, duties, and the behavior assigned to them as agricultural workers.