Baptists and the American Civil War: September 19, 1865

African SlaveryDuring the South Carolina constitutional convention this month, white leaders legislate the first of the post-war South “black codes.”

Laws designed to circumvent federal legislation granting freedoms to freedmen, black codes are the means to regulate movements and activities of black citizens in crucial ways.

On the one hand, South Carolina legalizes marriage between black men and women. On the other, interracial marriages are forbidden.

Ensuring that African Americans remained in servitude, a law is passed prohibiting blacks from work involving a skilled trade Black jobs are limited to agriculture, where “masters” hire “servants” to work in the fields. Employed “servants” are required to work six days a week from sun up to sun down, and must live on plantation grounds. Masters are granted the right to physically punish servants under certain circumstances.

Slavery, in effect, endures despite emancipation. It is, of course, for the good of the subordinate race:

“By a wise, just and humane treatment of your ‘freedmen’ and women, you may attach them to you as strongly in their new condition as they were whilst your slaves. They will soon learn to see and feel their dependence upon you, and know that their interests require them to be true and faithful to you.”

Among the re-enslaved are many Baptists, men and women who are busy separating from white-controlled churches, but are now essentially thrown back into the old slave system. They are allowed to attend church on Sundays, however, the Sabbath being their one day of freedom each week.

Sources: Alton Hornsby, Jr., Black America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia, Vol 1, Santa Barbara, Cal.: Greenwood, 2011, 753-754 (link); Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina, Held in Columbia, S.C., September 1865 (link)