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Police Regulations of Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana (1865)


Like the Black Codes, police regulations restricted the freedoms and personal autonomy of freedmen after the Civil War in the South. The Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana police regulations offer merely one example of the lengths Southern legislatures went to in preserving as much of the master-slave dynamic as possible. Louisiana possessed a large free black population prior to the Civil War, concentrated primarily in New Orleans, and offered more rights and freedoms to them than many Northern states. A virulent racism still pervaded the state, however, as freedmen were characterized as children in need of care and supervision by White employers, clergymen, and public officials. Some Louisiana politicians desired to expel all Blacks from the state following the war, but a commitment to maintaining as much of the antebellum status quo as possible prevailed. Slavery and the ideology on which it was based had ceased to exist only in name.

The regulations strove to hinder freedmen's ability to move about freely, binding them as much to the direct oversight and authority of the employer as possible. In many cases the employer was actually the employee's former master, effectively negating any real differences from slavery. The regulations sought to limit economic freedom and ensure that each former slave was in constant employment of "some White person," therefore effectively proscribing any chance of upward economic mobility and autonomy. In addition, laws enacted to keep freedmen from meeting "after sunset" and from preaching "to congregations of colored people" betrayed a deep-seated fear of African-American political and social organization that would pose a threat to White authority and order.

Paul S.Bartels,
Villanova University

See also Black Codes ; Louisiana ; Reconstruction ; South, the: The New South .

Police Regulations of St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, by Louisiana Legislature

Sec. 1. Be it ordained by the police jury of the parish of St. Landry, That no negro shall be allowed to pass within the limits of said parish without special permit in writing from his employer.…

Sec. 2. … Every negro who shall be found absent from the residence of his employer after ten o'clock at night, without a written permit from his employer, shall pay a fine of five dollars, or in default thereof, shall be compelled to work five days on the public road, or suffer corporeal punishment as hereinafter provided.

Sec. 3. … No negro shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within said parish. Any negro violating this provision shall be immediately ejected and compelled to find an employer.…

Sec. 4. … Every negro is required to be in the regular service of some white person, or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conduct of said negro. But said employer or former owner may permit said negro to hire his own time by special permission in writing, which permission shall not extend over seven days at any one time.…

Sec. 5. … No public meetings or congregations of negroes shall be allowed within said parish after sunset; but such public meetings and congregations may be held between the hours of sunrise and sunset, by the special permission in writing of the captain of patrol, within whose beat such meetings shall take place. This prohibition, however, is not to prevent negroes from attending the usual church services, conducted by white ministers and priests.…

Sec. 6. … No negro shall be permitted to preach, exhort, or otherwise declaim to congregations of colored people, without a special permission in writing from the president of the policy jury.…

Sec. 7. … No negro who is not in the military service shall be allowed to carry fire-arms, or any kind of weapons, within the parish, without the special written permission of his employers, approved and indorsed by the nearest and most convenient chief of patrol.…

Sec. 8. … No negro shall sell, barter, or exchange any articles of merchandise or traffic within said parish without the special written permission of his employer, specifying the article of sale, barter or traffic.…

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