The 1890s: Black Codes
After the Civil War, white supremacists in the South were determined to hinder any social or political progress by the African-American populace. At the 1866 Constitutional Convention, Texans imposed restrictive laws, known as Black Codes, upon African Americans that limited their autonomy. The Codes outlined a status for African Americans not too much removed from their earlier condition as slaves. African Americans without jobs often were assigned to white guardians for work without pay. The penalty for quitting often included imprisonment for breach of contract. Other laws prevented freedmen from having free access to public facilities. Stiff fines were levied against African Americans for violating curfews, possessing firearms, or displaying objectionable public behavior (harsh speeches or insulting gestures). They were not allowed to testify against whites, serve on juries or in state militias, or to vote. They were, however, free to develop schools and churches, which became vehicles for improvement within their communities. By the late 1860s, African Americans had aligned themselves with the Republicans and began to carve a pathway to true freedom as American citizens.