The Georgia Black Code as American Law: Race, Law, and Labor in the 19th Century American Republic Open Access

Hahn, Declan McCurry (2016)

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This thesis focuses on the set of laws known as the Black Codes, but more specifically, on the Black Code of Georgia. The Black Codes were the first laws that emerged in every former Confederate state immediately after emancipation. Previous scholarship on the Black Codes have characterized the legislation as an egregious attempt to reconstruct the racial hierarchy that defined the antebellum South so as to return the newly free black population to a position of enslavement. Up to this point scholars have argued that the Black Codes were based on laws governing free people of color in the antebellum period and are thus examples of the persistence of the pro-slavery Confederate ideology. However, focusing on the Black Code of Georgia, this thesis argues that the antecedents to the Codes were based mainly in Union Army labor policies towards escaped slaves during the Civil War, Freedmen's Bureau labor policies, and the North's experience with trying to curtail destitution in the early to mid 19th century. This claim is important because it challenges the existing the idea that the Black Codes, and more generally, the system of law and labor that emerged in the South immediately after emancipation, were a wholly southern institution. Instead I argue that the Black Code of Georgia was not a southern phenomenon, but an American one - inspired by the North as much as it was by the South.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Chapter 1: Uncertain Origins. 8

Chapter 2: The North Goes South. 28

Chapter 3: The South Goes North. 49

Epilogue: Pointing Forward. 70

Bibliography. 74

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