Race, Crime, Law

This essay has a total of 5789 words and 25 pages.

Race, Crime, Law

Race, Crime, and the Law Timeline
Chapters 1-3

1619- A "Dutch Man of War" sells "twenty and odd negars [Negroes]" to the "Cape merchant" of
the Virginia Company in Jamestown.

1798- Andrew Fede "Slave Abuse" A North Carolina statue declared the killing of a slave to be
a felony, but then added that the statue should not extend "to any person killing…any
slave in the act of resistance to his lawful owner or master, or any slave dying under
moderate correction. (p. 30)


1820- State v. Tackett, a case in which the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the
conviction of a white man prosecuted for murdering a slave. The conflict between the
deceased slave and the defendant stemmed from an illicit sexual relationship between the
defendant and the wife of the slave, a free black woman. At trial, the defendant sought to
introduce evidence that the slave was "a turbulent man…insolent and impudent to white
people." The judge, however, excluded this testimony and instructed the jury that the case
"was to be determined by the same rules and principles of law as if the deceased has been
a white man." The Supreme Court decided that this standard and the evidentiary ruling to
which it gave rise were erroneous. (p. 32)


1821- The South Carolina legislature made the willful, malicious, and deliberate killing of a slave
a capital offense. Although several motivations combined to produce this and similar
reforms, one of the most important was a desire to protect slave owners' economic
investment in their human property against the depredations of resentful poor whites.

(p. 31-32)

1829- State v. Mann, perhaps the best known of all the cases relating to slavery and criminal
laws. The defendant, John Mann, leased from an owner a slave named Lydia. During her
period of bondage to Mann, Lydia committed what the North Carolina Supreme Court describes
as "some small offense, for which the [D]fendant undertook to chastise her." The court
does not specify what sort of chastisement was attempted but does indicate that Lydia
tried to run away. When she disregarded Mann's order to stop, he shot and wounded her.
Mann was indicted and convicted for assault and battery, a remarkable event given the
difficulties that authorities faced in bringing criminal prosecutions against whites for
inflicting violence upon blacks. (p. 33)


1840's- Both the Alabama (Nelson v. State, 1844) and Tennessee (Grandison (a slave) v. State,
1841) Supreme Courts reversed convictions for rape because of the failure of prosecutors
to specify in the indictments that the victims were white, even though at the trial the
prosecution offered ample proof of this fact as well as the slaves' guilt. (p. 78)


1842- The Negro Seamen Acts show vividly the extent to which the slave South subjected all
blacks, not just slaves, to racially oppressive criminal laws. These laws provided that
any blacks on board a ship in a South Carolina or Louisiana harbor would be imprisoned
throughout the period during which the ship remained in harbor. Enacted after discovery of
plans for a slave rebellion in South Carolina, these laws were intended to insulate the
slave population from the "contagion of liberty" that might be spread by free black
seamen. (p. 81)


January 1842- Although the great majority of Northern whites perceived blacks as a
racially inferior caste, many also disliked slavery, and even more, resented efforts by
white Southerners to spread proslavery mores and practices across the nation. This
resentment, allied with abolitionist sentiments, provided the basis for what came to be
known as "personal liberty laws," which gave some degree of protection in the North to
free blacks and fugitive slaves. The Supreme Court disagreed, however, ruling in Prigg v.
Pennsylvania that under the federal constitution states did not have the authority to
regulate slaveowners pursuing their fugitive human property. (p. 83)


1846- In all of the Southern States and in several of the Northern ones, blacks (regardless of
their status as slaves or freedpeople) were barred from testifying against whites. (p. 37)

1850- Souther v. The Commonwealth of Virginia, in Hanover, Virginia, Souther was convicted of
murdering Sam, one of his slaves, during the course of punishing him for drunkenness. Sam
was tied to a tree and whipped with switches. When Souther became fatigued with the labour
of whipping, he called upon a Negro man of his, and made him cob Sam with a shingle. And
after cobbing and whipping, he applied fire to the body of the slave, about his back,
belly, and private parts. He then caused him to be washed down with hot water, in which
pods of red pepper had been steeped. The Negro was also tied to a log and to the bed post
with roped which choked him, and he was kicked and stamped by Souther. This sort of
punishment was continued and repeated until the Negro died under its infliction. Sam
Souther was sentenced to only five years' imprisonment for his horrific murder of Sam. (p.
31)


1850- Spencer v. State, The Supreme of Alabama overturned a guilty verdict against a slave
charged with murdering a white man on the grounds that one of his jurors had only a share
in an undistributed estate of slaves, whereas state laws required a juror in a case
against a slave to be a full owner of at least one slave. (p. 78-79)


1850- Ann v. State, a slave was charged with killing her master's baby. Immediately following
the baby's death, the master struck the defendant and threatened to shoot her. A day
later, the defendant confessed to two overseers. The state argued that the confession had
been properly admitted into evidence because the defendant was no longer imminent danger
of violence when she confessed. The Tennessee Supreme Court rejected the state's argument,
holding that, the confession could not be viewed as truly voluntary. (p. 79)


September 18, 1850- Congress and the President enacted a statue, the Fugitive Act of
1850, which created a federal bureaucracy to aid slaveowners in the capture and return of
runaway slaves. (p. 83)


June 1855- Celia, a teenager who was pregnant for the third time as a result of the
sexual assaults of her seventy-five-year-old owner. After warning Robert Newsom, a
successful farmer, that she would defend herself against any further assaults, Celia
killed Newsom when he again tried to rape her. In the ensuing prosecution, a Missouri
trial judge, affirmed by the state Supreme Court, refused to allow a jury instruction that
the homicide could be excused or extenuated by the fact that Celia was seeking to defend
herself. Instead, the trial judge told the jury that Celia should be found guilty of
murder if she did, in fact, strike and kill Newsom, even if he "was in the habit of having
intercourse with [her]…and went to any other purpose." After the judge erased the
possibility of an excuse founded on self-defense, the jury convicted Celia. The judge
sentenced her to death, but delayed the execution until the birth of Celia's child. After
Celia gave birth to a dead baby, she was hanged. (p. 35-36)


1858- A case from North Carolina involving the prosecution of a free black man who was
convicted of violating a state law, which forbade blacks from carrying firearms, State v.
Jacobs. The defendant appealed his conviction on the grounds that his privilege against
self-incrimination has been denied because the trial court had insisted that he make
himself available for display to the jury. The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the
conviction, holding that the trial court had wrongly compelled the defendant to furnish
evidence against himself. The attorney general of North Carolina argued that, under state
law, defendants were required to be present at their trials. The Supreme Court countered
that this law could be satisfied without compelling the defendants to stand or sit within
view of the jury. (p. 79 (end note))


1859- George (a slave) v. The State of Mississippi, a male slave was convicted and
sentenced to death for having had "carnal knowledge of a female slave, under ten years of
age." His conviction was overturned on appeal. Asserting that slaves have no rights under
the common law, Judge Williams L. Harris declared that courts must look to legislation
alone to discover what rights a slave might have. Since no statue specifically protected
slave girls or women from rape, no laws was violated by inflicting sexual violence upon
them. "We are satisfied," Harris declared, "that there is no act which embraces either the
attempted or actual commission of a rape by a slave on a female slave. (p. 34-35)


1860- Oliver v. State, the Mississippi Supreme Court similarly condoned a master's
killing of his slave to achieve submission. Reversing the manslaughter conviction of a
master who had killed his slave during a dispute over the slave's method of performed a
chore, the court remarked that if a slave resists, "then the master may use just such
force as may be requisite to reduce his slave to obedience, even to the death of the
slave, if that become[s] necessary…to maintain his lawful authority. (p.30)


1862-1864- In 1862, two years into Civil War, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner proposed a
law barring racial discrimination against black witnesses in federal court. He argued, in
part, that this reform would allow loyal blacks testify against disloyal whites for
purposes of identifying those who had participated in rebellion against the Union.
Sumner's proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would disturb the traditional and
proper relationship between states and the federal government. Only after three defeats
and two years of agitation was Sumner able finally in 1864 to push through Congress a bill
which enabled blacks to testify in all federal courts. (p. 38)


January 1, 1863- The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on the 22ND day of September, A.D. 1862," goes into effect.

November 25, 1865- The Mississippi Black Code, for instance, made it a criminal
offense for blacks to make "insulting gestures" or to function as ministers of the Gospel
without a license from some regularly organized (white) church. (p. 85)


December 6, 1865- The 13TH Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. "Neither
Slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party
shall exist within the U.S., or any place subject to their jurisdiction."


1866- The Civil Rights of 1866 stipulates that all citizens "of every race and color,
without regards to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude…shall be
subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties." (p. 85)


1866- Alabama made a criminal of "any person who, having no visible means of support,
or being dependent on his labor, lives without employment. (p. 86)


July 9, 1868- The 14TH Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. "No State shall make
or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the
U.S.; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due
process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the
laws."


February 3, 1870- The 15th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. "The right of
citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by
any State on account of race, color, or previous conditions of servitude."


1872- United States v. Cruikshank, which stemmed from "the bloodiest single act of
carnage in all of Reconstruction." In Colfax, Louisiana, during and after a battle between
contending political factions, opponents of Reconstruction killed about 280 blacks, many
of who were unarmed or in the process of surrendering. Pursuant to the Enforcement Act of
1870, the federal government indicted 97 people, although it succeeded in bringing to
trial only 9 and convicting only 3. These 3 convicted of depriving blacks of various
rights assertedly protected by the federal constitution. The Supreme Court voided their
convictions on variety of grounds, including the failure of the prosecution to charge the
defendant with acts punishable by federal authority. (p. 50)


1893- "Have American Negroes Too Much Liberty?" Charles Henry Smith asked. Yes, he
replied, because of their racial penchant for scurrilous crimes, especially rape. The idea
that blacks are racially predisposed toward criminality, or at least certain sorts of
crime, continues to shadow discussions of race relations and crime. It helps to explain
the common use of the term "black crime" long after the disappearance of references to
"Jewish crime" or "Italian crime." (p. 13)


1899- Dorsey v. The State, arose from the prosecution of a black man convicted of
attempting to rape a white woman. On appeal, the defendant law, the defendant's race could
be taken into account to nullify his assertion that he had only been attempting to obtain
the complainant's consent to sexual intercourse. Affirming the conviction, the Georgia
Supreme Court ruled that race may properly be considered "to rebut any presumption that
might otherwise, arise in favor of the accused that his intention was to obtain the
consent of female." (p.89)


1906- Hodges v. United States, Hodges stemmed from the federal prosecution of a mob of
whites in eastern Arkansas who, in 1903, ousted blacks from jobs at a lumber mill by
threatening to kill them. The whites were indicted for violating a federal statue, which
made it a crime for two or more persons to conspire "to injure, oppress, threaten, or
intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured
to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The government alleged that the
defendants had violated a federal statue, which gave to all persons "the same right…to
make and enforce contracts…as is enjoyed by white citizens." The government further
argued that the constitutional authority for this statutory grant was the 13TH Amendment
to the Constitution. In Hodges, the court made clear that, in its view, the 13TH Amendment
did not empower the federal government to respond to broadly to "the war of race." (p.
51-52)


1907- State v. Petit, a Louisiana case in which a black man was charged with burglary
and intent to rape a white woman. (p. 88)


August 1908- In Springfield, Illinois, a white mob frustrated by its inability to
lynch two Negroes charged with rape instead killed two other blacks who were unlucky
enough to cross its path. The mob also injured scores of people and burned and looted
black-owned homes and businesses. (p. 47)


1910- Congress passed the White Slave Traffic Act, popularly known as the Mann Act
(after its sponsor Representative James R. Mann of Illinois). The Mann Act made it a
felony under federal law to transport knowingly any woman or girl across state lines for
prostitution "or any other immoral purpose." According to its sponsors, the legislation
was aimed at eradicating "the business of securing white women and girls and of selling
them outright, or of exploiting them for immoral purposes." (p. 56)


July 10, 1910- A front-page cartoon in the Chicago Defender reflected the feelings of man
blacks entitled "The Strong Arm of the American Law," the cartoon pictures Sheriff Uncle
Sam tossing a promoter of prizefighting into a paddy wagon while 3 men clearly marked as
lynchers run away undisturbed. (p. 58)


1911- Alonzo Bailey was convicted and sentenced to 136 days of hard labor under
Alabama's false pretenses statue. After approximately a month into a yearlong contract,
Bailey quit his job as a field hand and failed to repay $15.00 advance he has received
from his employer. A local prosecutor contended that this conduct violated Alabama's
criminal code, which provided that a prima facie case of fraud could be shown by a breach
of contract along with failure to repay advance given by employer. The statue further
provided that a prima facie violation could not be rebutted by a defendant's own
testimony. A number of influential persons, including Booker T. Washington, selected
Bailey's case as a vehicle for challenging the constitutionality of this statue. They
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