Black Codes

Black codes were restrictive laws designed to limit the freedom of African Americans and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished during the Civil War. Though the Union victory had given some 4 million slaves their freedom, the question of freed blacks’ status in the postwar South was still very much unresolved. Under black codes, many states required blacks to sign yearly labor contracts; if they refused, they risked being arrested, fined and forced into unpaid labor. Outrage over black codes helped undermine support for President Andrew Johnson and the Republican Party.

Reconstruction Begins

When President Abraham Lincoln announced the impending passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in early 1863, the stakes of the Civil War shifted dramatically. A Union victory would mean no less than revolution in the South, where the “peculiar institution” of slavery had dominated economic, political and social life in the antebellum years.

In April 1865, as the war drew to a close, Lincoln shocked many by proposing limited suffrage for African Americans in the South. He was assassinated days later, however, and his successor Andrew Johnson would be the one to preside over the beginning of Reconstruction.

source: history.com

 

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