Make sure your essay of at least 800 words:Makes a specific argument that can be supported with the specific historical evidence of these two primary documents, as well as lecture notes and the textbook assigned to your class;Analyzes the historical significance of these two primary documents; and connect them with issues facing our country today;Analyzes the nature of the race in the past and today;Is written in standard English, with all sources and quotes properly cited using MLA format;Is written in your own words, not copied and pasted from other sources or web sites;
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The Mississippi Black Code (1865)
The Mississippi Black Code is an example of the manner by which the southern states strove to
maintain the old order while limiting the newly acquired rights of African Americans. Many
people in the North as well as the Republicans in Congress were alarmed by the Black Codes.
Reaction to the codes helped to radicalize Congress and catalyzed its attempt to seize control of
Reconstruction from President Andrew Johnson, ultimately leading to the presidents
2. Mississippi Apprentice Law
Sec. 1….It shall be the duty of all sheriffs, justices of the peace, and other civil officers of the
several counties in this State, to report to the probate courts of their respective counties semiannually, at the January and July terms of said courts, all freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes,
under the age of eighteen, in their respective counties, beats or districts, who are orphans, or
whose parent or parents have not the means or who refuse to provide for and support said
minors; and thereupon it shall be the duty of said probate court to order the clerk of said court to
apprentice said minors to some competent and suitable person, on such terms as the court may
direct, having a particular care to the interest of said minor: Provided, that the former owner of
said minors shall have the preference when, in the opinion of the court, he or she shall be a
suitable person for that purpose.
Sec. 2….The said court shall be fully satisfied that the person or persons to whom said minor
shall be apprenticed shall be a suitable person to have the charge and care of said minor, and
fully to protect the interest of said minor. The said court shall require the said master or mistress
to execute bond and security, payable to the State of Mississippi, conditioned that he or she shall
furnish said minor with sufficient food and clothing; to treat said minor humanely; furnish
medical attention in case of sickness; teach, or cause to be taught, him or her to read and write, if
under fifteen years old, and will conform to any law that may be hereafter passed for the
regulation of the duties and relation of master and apprentice….
Sec. 3….In the management and control of said apprentice, said master or mistress shall have the
power to inflict such moderate corporal chastisement as a father or guardian is allowed to inflict
on his or her child or ward at common law: Provided, that in no case shall cruel or inhuman
punishment be inflicted.
Sec. 4….If any apprentice shall leave the employment of his or her master or mistress, without
his or her consent, said master or mistress may pursue and recapture said apprentice, and bring
him or her before any justice of the peace of the county, whose duty it shall be to remand said
apprentice to the service of his or her master or mistress; and in the event of a refusal on the part
of said apprentice so to return, then said justice shall commit said apprentice to the jail of said
county, on failure to give bond, to the next term of the county court; and it shall be the duty of
said court at the first term thereafter to investigate said case, and if the court shall be of opinion
that said apprentice left the employment of his or her master or mistress without good cause, to
order him or her to be punished, as provided for the punishment of hired freedmen, as may be
from time to time provided for by law for desertion, until he or she shall agree to return to the
service of his or her master or mistress: …if the court shall believe that said apprentice had good
cause to quit his said master or mistress, the court shall discharge said apprentice from said
indenture, and also enter a judgment against the master or mistress for not more than one
hundred dollars, for the use and benefit of said apprentice….
3. Mississippi Vagrant Law
Sec. 1. Be it enacted, etc.,…That all rogues and vagabonds, idle and dissipated persons, beggars,
jugglers, or persons practicing unlawful games or plays, runaways, common drunkards, common
night-walkers, pilferers, lewd, wanton, or lascivious persons, in speech or behavior, common
railers and brawlers, persons who neglect their calling or employment, misspend what they earn,
or do not provide for the support of themselves or their families, or dependents, and all other idle
and disorderly persons, including all who neglect all lawful business, habitually misspend their
time by frequenting houses of ill-fame, gaming-houses, or tippling shops, shall be deemed and
considered vagrants, under the provisions of this act, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined
not exceeding one hundred dollars, with all accruing costs, and be imprisoned at the discretion of
the court, not exceeding ten days.
Sec. 2….All freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes in this State, over the age of eighteen years,
found on the second Monday in January, 1866, or thereafter, with no lawful employment or
business, or found unlawfully assembling themselves together, either in the day or night time,
and all white persons so assembling themselves with freedmen, free negroes or mulattoes, or
usually associating with freedmen, free negroes or mulattoes, on terms of equality, or living in
adultery or fornication with a freed woman, free negro or mulatto, shall be deemed vagrants, and
on conviction thereof shall be fined in a sum not exceeding, in the case of a freedman, free negro
or mulatto, fifty dollars, and a white man two hundred dollars, and imprisoned at the discretion
of the court, the free negro not exceeding ten days, and the white man not exceeding six
Sec. 7….If any freedman, free negro, or mulatto shall fail or refuse to pay any tax levied
according to the provisions of the sixth section of this act, it shall be prima facie evidence of
vagrancy, and it shall be the duty of the sheriff to arrest such freedman, free negro, or mulatto or
such person refusing or neglecting to pay such tax, and proceed at once to hire for the shortest
time such delinquent tax-payer to any one who will pay the said tax, with accruing costs, giving
preference to the employer, if there be one….
4. Penal Laws of Mississippi
Sec. 1. Be it enacted,…That no freedman, free negro or mulatto, not in the military service of the
United States government, and not licensed so to do by the board of police of his or her county,
shall keep or carry fire-arms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk or bowie knife, and on
conviction thereof in the county court shall be punished by fine, not exceeding ten dollars, and
pay the costs of such proceedings, and all such arms or ammunition shall be forfeited to the
informer; and it shall be the duty of every civil and military officer to arrest any freedman, free
negro, or mulatto found with any such arms or ammunition, and cause him or her to be
committed to trial in default of bail.
2….Any freedman, free negro, or mulatto committing riots, routs, affrays, trespasses, malicious
mischief, cruel treatment to animals, seditious speeches, insulting gestures, language, or acts, or
assaults on any person, disturbance of the peace, exercising the function of a minister of the
Gospel without a license from some regularly organized church, vending spirituous or
intoxicating liquors, or committing any other misdemeanor, the punishment of which is not
specifically provided for by law, shall, upon conviction thereof in the county court, be fined not
less than ten dollars, and not more than one hundred dollars, and may be imprisoned at the
discretion of the court, not exceeding thirty days.
Sec. 3….If any white person shall sell, lend, or give to any freedman, free negro, or mulatto any
fire-arms, dirk or bowie knife, or ammunition, or any spirituous or intoxicating liquors, such
person or persons so offending, upon conviction thereof in the county court of his or her county,
shall be fined not exceeding fifty dollars, and may be imprisoned, at the discretion of the court,
not exceeding thirty days….
Sec. 5….If any freedman, free negro, or mulatto, convicted of any of the misdemeanors provided
against in this act, shall fail or refuse for the space of five days, after conviction, to pay the fine
and costs imposed, such person shall be hired out by the sheriff or other officer, at public outcry,
to any white person who will pay said fine and all costs, and take said convict for the shortest
The Letter from Birmingham Jail is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther
King Jr. The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. It says that people
have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting
potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. Responding to being referred to as an
“outsider,” King writes, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my
present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and
ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little
time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no
time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your
criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be
patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the
view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state,
with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across
the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently
we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the
affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action
program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we
lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was
invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the
eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the
boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried
the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to
carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to
the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly
by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a
threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a
single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can
we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the
United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to
say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I
am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis
that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that
demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s
white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine
whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through
all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs
this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United
States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust
treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches
in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case.
On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the
latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic
community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for
example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human
Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we
realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned;
the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the
shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for
direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the
conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we
decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on
nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without
retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action
program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping
period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by
product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the
merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we
speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the
Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the
run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the
demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr.
Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in
this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a
better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of
direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a
community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so
to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of
the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not
afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of
constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was
necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of
myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must
we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men
rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and
brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed
that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for
negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in
monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in
Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration
time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham
administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are
sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium
to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are
both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell
will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will
not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we
have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure.
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges
voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but,
as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it
must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign
that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of
segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with
piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with
one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations
of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we
still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it
is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when
you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and
brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black
brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers
smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly
find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old
daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on
television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored
children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see
her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white
people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why
do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it
necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no
motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading
“white” and “colored”; when your first name b …
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