History of the United States

The history of the United States is deeply rooted in slavery especially
pitting the whites as the masters and the blacks as the slaves. Indeed,
slavery was rife and legal in the United States for a number of
centuries until 1865, when the 13th amendment to the United States
Constitution was enacted abolishing slave trade or any involuntary
servitude. The Mississippi Black Code essentially exposed the manner in
which the southern states made efforts to retain the old order and
restrict the rights that the African Americans had just acquired. After
the civil war, the African Americans gained a number of privileges.
First, they gained the capacity to sue other individuals, whether white
men or freed negroes, as well as acquire or dispose property in the same
manner as white men could do provided it was in incorporated towns or
cities where corporate authorities would control such property (Boezi,
2006). On the same note, the African Americans could now be considered
competent witnesses in both criminal and civil cases even in instances
where the defendants were white people and the plaintiffs as Negroes
(Boezi, 2006). Indeed, it was considered lawful for any free Negro,
mulatto or freedman to charge, by affidavit, a mulatto, Negro, freedman
or white person with any criminal offense against himself or his
property, after which the proper process would be issued and done as if
a white person had made the affidavit.
In addition, the African Americans were granted the right to intermarry
amongst themselves with individuals who had lived and cohabited together
as husband and wife being considered as legally married (Boezi, 2006).
The differential awarding of rights was aimed at giving the former
slaves a semblance of freedom while not allowing them to be in a level
that would allow them to compete with their white counterparts. There
were fears that freedom would make the black slaves too strong and
powerful to the extent of challenging white supremacy and even carrying
out revenge on their white masters. This is essentially why they could
only be given limited rights.
However, African Americans also lost some of the privileges with the
enactment of the Mississippi Black Codes. First, they could be arrested
and carried back to their employers in instances where they had left
their jobs without a good cause. This means that they could only leave
their jobs with the sole authority of their owners as only them could
determine what amounted to a good reason (Boezi, 2006).
These restrictions were complemented by sharecropper contacts that
ensured that the sharecropper, who was mainly an African American, would
not only remain indebted to the landowner and poor but also he never
became an autonomous farmer. In this regard, sharecroppers would not be
allowed to cater for their own fields in instances where there was work
to be done in the landowners field (Boezi, 2006). Indeed, a typical
sharecropper agreement prohibited croppers to work off the plantation in
instances where the land he has rented had work or in instances where
the landowner or even other landowners required him to work for them. On
the same note, landowners would require specific amounts of produce,
failure to which they could recover the remaining amount from the
croppers’ share so as to fill up the amount. In addition,
sharecroppers seemed to remain subordinate to the landowners as he could
call any of them to carry out repairs on any part of the fence destroyed
(Boezi, 2006). Underlining the cruelty outlined in the sharecroppers’
contracts is the fact that the croppers could not claim stock of any
kind in the plantation after the gathering of the crops. This means that
they ultimately had no ownership rights at the end of the day. Lastly,
it is evident that they did not have the freedom to claim even the money
earned from selling their share of the produce. Indeed, only the
landowner could sell such produce and, after deducting the amounts that
the croppers owed him, he could “decide” to give them half of the
net proceeds.
References
Boezi, M. (2006). America through the eyes of its people: [primary
sources in American history]. New York: Pearson/Longman.
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