Civil Rights Class Week 1

As part of my personal growth in 2022, I am taking a civil rights class at the Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts. The “Civil Rights Movement” refers to efforts toward achieving true equality for African Americans in all facets of society, but today the term “civil rights” is also used to describe the advancement of equality for all people regardless of race, sex, age, disability, national origin, religion, or certain other characteristics. The class is taught by historians Dr. Arturo Bagley and Bruce Taylor.

The course analyzes the structure and dynamics of the civil rights movement from the viewpoints of history, society, and politics. Students pay close attention to the roles of organizations, resources, leadership, recruitment, commitment, values, ideology, political culture, gender, and counter- movements using readings, including articles and primary source documents.

Course Description – The Civil Rights movement is one of the most significant sources of social change in the United States. This course analyzes the structure and dynamics of the civil rights movement from the viewpoints of history, society, and politics. We will pay close attention to the roles of organizations, resources, leadership, recruitment, commitment, values, ideology, political culture, gender, and counter-movements. A variety of themes will be presented. You will be been given a number of readings, including articles and primary source documents. We will also view a number of documentary and feature films.

Some of the issues/subject we will be studying are as follows:

  • Famous court cases
  • Passing Acts of 64/65
  • Modern-Day Civil Rights issues
  • Bussing-desegregation
  • Abolition
  • Civil Rights Acts during Reconstruction
  • Sit-ins /Freedom Rides
  • MLK speeches/action
  • Malcolm X
  • Great Migration
  • The 1960s-70s

Course Format: The course will be run seminar style. Where we will discuss readings, films and other materials. The pace of the course will be determined in part by the students.

Course Requirements: Attendance at all class sessions is required for credit. Students will be expected to give responses verbally, as well as in writing, reflecting on seminar discussions, readings, films, and other materials. These will be graded during the course. In addition, students may be asked to present to the class individually and in groups. Students will also take and complete all assessments, quizzes, essays, presentations, and projects on time. Participation in discussions will also be required. Attendance, preparation, and participation are essential. Participation in class discussions will count towards your grade. You will write several short reaction papers/ essays as assigned. You may be asked to present to the class oral reports on assigned topics as part of a collaborative team, and serve with this team as a reaction panel to films and videos. You will complete all tests, quizzes, essays, and projects on time.

A St. Louis Globe-Democrat article concerning dedication of a Jackson, Mississippi, monument to Confederate soldiers in June 1891 mentions the “Lost Cause” in its headline. “Great Day for the South”. St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Jackson, Mississippi. June 4, 1891. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved August 8, 2020 – via

Homework 1: Why have there been issues of Civil Rights in American History?

If civil rights are part of this country’s founding values, why are formerly enslaved people still fighting the same fights? America was founded by rich, white male property owners on a system that used economic power to create systemic racism and a racial hierarchy. The Constitution is written to control the public by giving low population states two seats in the Senate, the same as high population states. This system is designed to keep “others” out. The power of inheritance plays a part in white supremacy. Elected officials continue to benefit from the system and do not receive enough pressure from the public to change things. There are still grandchildren of slave owners running things in the south since we are only two generations away from Reconstruction. The Civil War ended but the ideology lingers meaning that the formerly enslaved people did not gain civil rights.

Class Notes 1/28

American Civil War –The most common name for the American Civil War in modern American usage is simply “The Civil War”. Although rarely used during the war, the term “War Between the States” became widespread afterward in the Southern United States. During and immediately after the war, Northern historians often used the terms “War of the Rebellion” and “Great Rebellion”, and the Confederate term was “War for Southern Independence”, which regained some currency in the 20th century but has again fallen out of use. The name “Slaveholders’ Rebellion” was used by Frederick Douglass and appears in newspaper articles. Also in the 20th century, the term “War of Northern Aggression” developed under the Lost Cause of the Confederacy movement by Southern history revisionists, with attempts to reimagine the American Civil War narrative negatively and to preserve Confederate legacy. “Freedom War” is used to celebrate the war’s effect of ending slavery. In several European languages, the war is called “War of Secession”.

They say that history is written by the victors, but the Civil War has been the rare exception. Perhaps the need for the country to stay together made it necessary for the North to sit silently and accept the South’s conception of the conflict. In any case, for most of the past 150 years, the South’s version of the war and Reconstruction has held sway in our schools, our literature and, since the dawn of feature films, our movies.

— Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle, 2015 LaSalle, Mick (July 24, 2015). “Romanticizing Confederate cause has no place onscreen”. San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on July 8, 2020. Retrieved July 8, 2020.

System– The prevailing political or social order, especially when regarded as oppressive and intransigent. the Establishment. the authorities. the powers that be.

Hierarchy – A system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority. (the hierarchy – The upper echelons of a hierarchical system; those in authority.)

Civil rights – The rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.

One Drop Rule – Any black blood made you all black.

Slavery in the United States– the legal institution of human chattel slavery, comprising the enslavement primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America from 1526 (well before the nation’s founding) until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

white supremacy – The belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups, in particular black or Jewish people.

Polarization – Division into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.

Lost Cause Idea – an interpretation of the American Civil War viewed by most historians as a pseudohistorical negationist mythology that attempts to preserve the honor of the South by casting the Confederate defeat in the best possible light. It attributes the loss to the overwhelming Union advantage in manpower and resources, nostalgically celebrates an antebellum South of supposedly benevolent slave owners and contented enslaved people, and downplays or altogether ignores slavery as the cause of war. It became the philosophical foundation for the racial violence and terrorism employed to reverse Reconstruction and for the reimposition of white supremacy in the Jim Crow era. Its acceptance in the North as well as in the South facilitated national reunion following the war but at the cost of the civil rights of African Americans. White supremacy is a central feature of the Lost Cause narrative. (David W. Blight (2001). Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Harvard University Press. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-674-00332-3. Archived from the original on June 10, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2015.)

Reconstruction – In U.S. history, the period (1865–77) that followed the American Civil War and during which attempts were made to redress the inequities of slavery and its political, social, and economic legacy and to solve the problems arising from the readmission to the Union of the 11 states that had seceded at or before the outbreak of war. Long portrayed by many historians as a time when vindictive Radical Republicans fastened Black supremacy upon the defeated Confederacy, Reconstruction has since the late 20th century been viewed more sympathetically as a laudable experiment in interracial democracy. Reconstruction witnessed far-reaching changes in America’s political life. At the national level, new laws and constitutional amendments permanently altered the federal system and the definition of American citizenship. In the South, a politically mobilized Black community joined with white allies to bring the Republican Party to power, and with it a redefinition of the responsibilities of government. (The Lincoln Repubician party; not the Trump party.)

Herrenvolk democracy – a system of government in which only the majority ethnic group participates in government, while minority groups are disenfranchised. (Herrenvolk meaning “master race”, was a concept in Nazi ideology that the German nation was considered to be innately superior to others.)

1619 – a significant starting point to slavery in America is said to be 1619, when the privateer The White Lion brought 20 enslaved African ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia. The crew had seized the Africans from the Portugese slave ship Sao Jao Bautista.

Enslavement vs Indentured – The enslaved were considered to be property and a lowlier race fit only for enslavement. Indentured servitude differed from slavery in that it was a form of debt bondage, meaning it was an agreed upon term of unpaid labor that usually paid off the costs of the servant’s immigration to America. Indentured servants were not paid wages but they were generally housed, clothed, and fed. The indentured servants were not considered property and were free upon the end of their indenture (usually a period of five to seven years).

Slave Codes – in U.S. history, any of the set of rules and laws relating to slavery and enslaved people, specifically regarding the Atlantic slave trade and chattel slavery in the Americas based on the concept that enslaved persons were property, not persons.

Miscegenation– the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types. Comes from the Latin words miscere (to mix) and genus (type, family, or descent) and has been used to refer to cohabitation or intermarriage between racial groups. Regulated by state law, miscegenation was illegal in many states for decades.

What are American Values? (As brainstormed in class.) Racism, Us vs Them, reluctance to share wealth, polarization = division, white males rule (I am positive we will add to this list over the course of the class)

Homework 2: Read descriptions and excerpts of Virginia slave codes. Make notes.

A Selection of Virginia Slave Laws, 1662-1705 [The status of the first Africans that arrived in Virginia varied according to many factors. It is believed that most of the early Africans who came to Virginia were classed as indentured servants. According to Winthrop Jordan, however, by 1640, Africans and their descendants increasingly were seen as bound for life. In White Over Black (Call number: E29.N3 J76), Jordan writes that “the legal enactment of Negro slavery followed the social practice, rather than vice versa.” Between 1662 to 1705, the Virginia House of Burgesses codified slavery. These laws served as a model for those passed in other colonies.]

  • 1630 – White man was whipped in front of whites and blacks for having sexual intercourse with a black woman because he dishonored himself in the eyes of “god” (Christians could not be enslaved. Basis of laws against intermarriage. White man given the punishment reserved for blacks.)
  • 1640 – White man had to do penance for getting black woman pregnant. She was whipped. (If your mother was enslaved, you were born enslaved. Any black was considered all black. One Drop Rule. )
  • 1640, a Virginia court sentenced John Punch, an African, to life in servitude after he attempted to flee his service.The two whites with whom he fled were sentenced only to an additional year of their indenture, and three years’ service to the colony. This marked the first de facto legal sanctioning of slavery in the English colonies, and was one of the first legal distinctions made between Europeans and Africans. ( Higginbotham, A. Leon (1975). In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780195027457.
  • 1654, John Casor, a black indentured servant in colonial Virginia, was the first man to be declared a slave in a civil case. He had claimed to an officer that his master, Anthony Johnson, had held him past his indenture term. Johnson himself was a free black, who had arrived in Virginia in 1621 from Angola. A neighbor, Robert Parker, told Johnson that if he did not release Casor, he would testify in court to this fact. Under local laws, Johnson was at risk for losing some of his headright lands for violating the terms of indenture. Under duress, Johnson freed Casor. Casor entered into a seven years’ indenture with Parker. Feeling cheated, Johnson sued Parker to repossess Casor. A Northampton County, Virginia court ruled for Johnson, declaring that Parker illegally was detaining Casor from his rightful master who legally held him “for the duration of his life”.(William J. Wood. “The Illegal Beginning of American Negro Slavery,” American Bar Association Journal, January 1970.)
  • 1656 Virginia, Elizabeth Key Grinstead, a mixed-race woman, successfully gained her freedom and that of her son in a challenge to her status by making her case as the baptized Christian daughter of the free Englishman Thomas Key. Her attorney was an English subject, which may have helped her case. (He was also the father of her mixed-race son, and the couple married after Key was freed.) Taunya Lovell Banks, “Dangerous Woman: Elizabeth Key’s Freedom Suit – Subjecthood and Racialized Identity in Seventeenth Century Colonial Virginia”, Digital Commons Law, University of Maryland Law School. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
  • 1661 – Indenture (WHITE) servants gets more time added to service for misdeads. Running away or aiding blacks to run added more time. (indenture = 7-year contract. Most did not live long enough to earn freedom. Most were men. Children born to indentured were born free. Women who get pregnant during service have more time added.)
  • 1662- Children born to Negro women were free or bonded according to the condition of the mother. (partus sequitur ventrem (called partus, for short), stating that any children born in the colony would take the status of the mother. This was a reversal of common law practice in England, which ruled that children of English subjects took the status of the father. The change institutionalized the skewed power relationships between those who enslaved people and enslaved women, freed white men from the legal responsibility to acknowledge or financially support their mixed-race children, and somewhat confined the open scandal of mixed-race children and miscegenation to within the slave quarters.)
  • 1667- The baptism of slaves as Christians did not alter their status as slaves.
  • 1668- A freed black woman did not gain civil right with their freedom and they were required to pay taxes. (White women were ‘wards’ of their fathers, oldest living male relative if fatherless or husband.)
  • 1669- A master who killed a disobedient slave could not be accused of a felony.
  • 1670- Free Negroes and Indians were prohibited from buying Christian indentured servants.
  • 1680- Black (free and slave) or other slaves were prohibited from carrying weapon, leaving their owner’s plantations without a pass, and could be punished by any white man. (The punishment was 20 ‘well-laid” lashes on the bare back. This is the start of police problems for black people!)
  • 1682- No master or overseer could permit a slave to remain on his plantation for longer than four hours without the permission of the slave’s owner.
  • 1691- Any white man or woman who married a Negro, mulatto, or Indian was banished from Virginia.
  • 1705- All servants not Christians in their native countries (except for Turks, Moors, and others who could prove they were free in England or another Christian country) and imported to Virginia were slaves. Slaves remained slaves even if they traveled to England. Seybert, Tony (August 4, 2004). “Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865”. Slavery in America. Archived from the original on August 4, 2004. Retrieved June 14, 2011.

Homework 3:

  • 1. How was one determined to be enslaved?
  • 2. What do you notice about the evolution of the slave codes?
  • 3. What do you think the purposes of the slave codes were? Explain.

Question 1: The Ways of Enslavement:

  • 1. Being kidnapped in Africa, transported to America and being sold classified one as human chattel.
  • 2. Being born to an enslaved mother made the child the property of the mother’s enslaver.
  • 3. During wars, some Native Americans were captured and sold by other Native Americans into slavery to Europeans
  • 4. Some Native Americans were captured and sold by Europeans.
  • 5. Some people were sentenced to slavery as punishment by the governing authority. (“Strangers” to refer to people bought and sold as slaves; they were generally not English subjects.)
  • 6. Some free blacks were kidnapped and sold into slavery far from their home base.

Question 2: Evolution of the Slave Codes

An act concerning Servants and Slaves” also called Virginia Slave Codes of 1705, was a series of laws enacted by Virginia’s General Assembly in the session of October 1705. The Act collects old and establishes new laws with regards to indentured servants and slaves.

Hening’s Statutes at Large, Volume 3, Page 453 “And if any woman servant shall have a bastard child by a negro, or mulatto, over and above the years service due to her master or owner, she shall immediately, upon the expiration of her time to her then present master or owner, pay down to the church-wardens of the parish wherein such child shall be born, for the use of the said parish, fifteen pounds current money of Virginia, or be by them sold for five years, to the use aforesaid: And if a free christian white woman shall have such bastard child, by a negro, or mulatto, for every such offence, she shall, within one month after her delivery of such bastard child, pay to the church-wardens for the time being, of the parish wherein such child shall be born, for the use of the said parish fifteen pounds current money of Virginia, or be by them sold for five years to the use aforesaid: And in both the said cases, the church-wardens shall bind the said child to be a servant, until it shall be of thirty-one years of age.”

The Slave Codes effectively embedded the idea of slavery into law. (Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!: An American History, W.W. Norton & Company, 2009, p. 100)

  • Established new property rights for slave owners
  • Prohibit slaves from owning property
  • Allowed for the legal, free trade of slaves with protections granted by the courts
  • Established separate courts of trial
  • Prohibited Blacks, regardless of free status, from owning arms [weapons]
  • Whites could not be employed by any blacks
  • Allowed for the apprehension of suspected runaways
  • No testimony could be made by a slave against a white person.

Most other Slave Codes were based on the Virginia Codes of 1705. The most common other elements were:

  1. Movement restrictions: The enslaved needed a pass signed by their master or a slave-tags, small copper badges that enslaved people wore, to show that they were allowed to move about. (Harlan., Greene (2004). Slave badges and the slave-hire system in Charleston, South Carolina, 1783-1865. Mcfarland. ISBN 978-0786440900.)
  2. Marriage restrictions: Marriage between people of different races was also usually restricted. The enslaved need their enslavers permission to marry.
  3. Prohibitions on gathering: Slave codes generally prevented large groups of enslaved people from gathering away from their plantations. (Ingersoll, Thomas N. (1995). “Slave Codes and Judicial Practice in New Orleans, 1718-1807”. Law and History Review. 13 (1): 26–27. doi:10.2307/743955. JSTOR 743955.)
  4. Slave patrols: Slave patrols hired by plantation owners and other free whites to ‘policed’ the enslaved people so they were not free to move about at night, and to generally enforce the restrictions on slaves. (Hadden, Sally E. (2001). Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas. Harvard Historical Studies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 340. ISBN 9780674012349.) <—This is the birth of African Americans’ troubles with systemic racism in policing.
  5. Trade and commerce by slaves: Restrictions the rights of enslaved people to buy, sell, and produce goods were introduced. (Berlin, Ira (1991). The slaves’ economy : independent production by slaves in the Americas. Morgan, Phillip D. London: Cass. p. 7. ISBN 978-0714634364. OCLC 255388170.)
  6. Punishment and killing of slaves: Slave codes regulated how slaves could be punished with no penalty for “accidentally” killing an enslaved person while punishing them. (Morris, Thomas D. (1999). Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619-1860. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 161–171. ISBN 978-0807864302.) Historian Lawrence M. Friedman wrote: “Ten Southern codes made it a crime to mistreat a slave…. Under the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825 (art. 192), if a master was ′convicted of cruel treatment,′ the judge could order the sale of the mistreated slave, presumably to a better master.”(Lawrence M. Friedman (2005). A History of American Law: Third Edition. Simon and Schuster. p.163 ISBN 0743282582)
  7. Education restrictions: It was illegal to teach slaves to read.(“A History to Remember by Rose Sanders – Education Rights / In Motion Magazine”. Retrieved 2018-12-17.)

Question 3: What do you think the purposes of the slave codes were? Explain.

The laws were devised to establish greater control over the rising population of (Black) enslaved people, segregate white colonizers from enslaved people, squash rebellion, prevent the indentured from uniting with the enslaved, prevent black family bonds and keep all wealth and knowledge in the hands of the white, male landed aristocracy.

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