Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


To date, the scholarship covering the Black Codes has centered on these laws' role as the predecessor of Jim Crow. Little study has been given to the laws as a whole--the one encompassing work being Theodore Wilson's Black Codes of the South. Other studies have examined the Black Codes' effect on specific states; however, no specific study has been done on the Black Codes of Kentucky and Tennessee nor has any study been made of these laws' relation to the antebellum Slave Code. This project therefore will represent an attempt to show that the Black Codes of Tennessee and Kentucky bear a direct relation to those states' antebellum Slave Code. The Black Codes of Tennessee and Kentucky were in many instances revised Slave Codes. Often this revision entailed only the removal of the word slave. In other instances, laws applying to free blacks remained on the law books following Reconstruction since they did not apply specifically to slaves and the federal government did not demand their repeal. Both states attempted to pass additional laws which applied to solely freedmen following the Civil War; however, due to Tennessee's position as a former Confederate state, its efforts were thwarted. These aspirations show Kentucky and Tennessee's desire to maintain the antebellum status quo and do not represent the beginning of Jim Crow law. This project will rest mainly on sources from the 1865-1866 period, primarily codes Tennessee and Kentucky's General Assemblies passed during these years. It will also include Slave Codes passed between 1800 and 1860 which were either revised or still in effect during the Black Code era, 1865 to 1866. Whenever secondary sources are used it will be the intent of the author to utilize the primary quotations from within those texts. Finally, it will be seen that the Black Codes of Kentucky and Tennessee owe their form as well as their function to the Slave Code. Likewise it will be clearly seen that the Black Codes were an attempt by Southern legislatures to hold on to the social and racial hierarchy of the antebellum South.


History | Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | United States History