Blue Laws and Black Codes

Blue Laws and Black Codes: Conflict, Courts, and Change in Twentieth-Century Virginia

Peter Wallenstein
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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    Blue Laws and Black Codes
    Book Description:

    Women were once excluded everywhere from the legal profession, but by the 1990s the Virginia Supreme Court had three women among its seven justices. This is just one example of how law in Virginia has been transformed over the past century, as it has across the South and throughout the nation.

    InBlue Laws and Black Codes,Peter Wallenstein shows that laws were often changed not through legislative action or constitutional amendment but by citizens taking cases to state and federal courtrooms. Due largely to court rulings, for example, stores in Virginia are no longer required by "blue laws" to close on Sundays.

    Particularly notable was the abolition of segregation laws, modified versions of southern states' "black codes" dating back to the era of slavery and the first years after emancipation. Virginia's long road to racial equality under the law included the efforts of black civil rights lawyers to end racial discrimination in the public schools, the 1960 Richmond sit-ins, a case against segregated courtrooms, and a court challenge to a law that could imprison or exile an interracial couple for their marriage.

    While emphasizing a single state,Blue Laws and Black Codesis framed in regional and national contexts. Regarding blue laws, Virginia resembled most American states. Regarding racial policy, Virginia was distinctly southern. Wallenstein shows how people pushed for changes in the laws under which they live, love, work, vote, study, and shop-in Virginia, the South, and the nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2487-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps and Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Amending Virginia, Amending America
    (pp. 1-14)

    Lawyers are men. “Colored” people cannot marry “white” people. Public amusements must remain closed on Sundays. On these and other matters, popular beliefs and public policy underwent changes so dramatic in the past hundred years, Virginia in the 1990s was hardly the same place as Virginia in the 1890s. This book explores the transformation.

    Blue Laws and Black Codesemphasizes the past century or so in the history of one state. Yet, in degree, Virginia can stand as a proxy for the entire South, even the entire nation (indeed for much of the world), as traditional ways of doing things...

  6. 1 The Case of the Laborer from Louisa: Conscripts, Convicts, and Public Roads, 1890s–1920s
    (pp. 15-35)

    Reverend Littleberry James Haley (1832–1917) wrote in mid-January 1882 that he had stayed at home in Louisa County on both Wednesday and Thursday that week: “The roads are too awfully muddy to travel.”¹ He is one of three central Virginians whose stories illustrate how people traveled before the twentieth century and how the coming of the horseless carriage and hard-surface roads transformed the traditional patterns of life and work in the region. These three men involved themselves in three major developments in the law between the 1890s and the 1910s that led to Virginia’s highway system: a court case...

  7. 2 Necessity, Charity, and a Sabbath: Citizens, Courts, and Sunday Closing Laws, 1920s–1980s
    (pp. 36-59)

    The alleged crime—playing professional baseball on a sunday—took place on the playing field of the Portsmouth Truckers, who were playing the Richmond Colts. Frank D. Lawrence, half owner and president of the Truckers, had offered free admission that day—May 17, 1925—in hopes of generating greater interest in baseball and attracting more paying customers during regular games. He was also seeking to test a Virginia statute that restricted Sunday baseball. After one inning the Norfolk County deputy sheriff arrested the starting nine on each side, as well as the two umpires. Called on account of arrests, the...

  8. 3 These New and Strange Beings: Race, Sex, and the Legal Profession, 1870s–1970s
    (pp. 60-81)

    In 1848 every attorney in Virginia was a white man. In that regard Virginia was representative of the South, indeed of virtually the entire nation. Over the next century and a half, much would change, and albeit in very different ways, Virginia would once again typify regional and indeed national patterns.¹ This chapter explores some of those changes in Virginia, the South, and the nation. While the emphasis here is on gender, race offers a comparative means of gauging change; and of course change had to take place in both race and gender for there to be black female attorneys....

  9. 4 The Siege against Segregation: Black Virginians and the Law of Civil Rights
    (pp. 82-113)

    Between the end of slavery in the 1860s and the civil rights laws of the 1960s, the world of “Jim Crow” racial discrimination characterized much of America. With even greater force it characterized the South. Black southerners everywhere were subject to the various dimensions of racial segregation: limited access to, even utter exclusion from, many places and opportunities. Especially between the 1890s and the 1940s, black southerners almost everywhere were subject to political disempowerment, whether through terror, the poll-tax requirement, a fraudulent count, or black exclusion from primary elections. The world of “separate but equal” proved far less equal than...

  10. 5 To Sit or Not to Sit: Scenes in Richmond from the Civil Rights Movement
    (pp. 114-141)

    In the early 1960s Ford Johnson was an undergraduate at Virginia Union University in Richmond. So was his sister, Elizabeth. On Saturday, February 20, 1960, they headed downtown to participate in sit-ins directed at the segregated seating arrangements of the eating venues in the department stores that lined Broad Street. The Civil Rights movement was alive and well in the Upper South. Racial segregation remained under siege, although in ways that differed from the 1940s and 1950s (see chapter 4).

    Whether the racial requirements imposed in those stores reflected the express mandates of state and city governments or the private...

  11. 6 Racial Identity and the Crime of Marriage: The View from Twentieth-Century Virginia
    (pp. 142-169)

    One night in July 1958, two newlyweds suddenly awoke at their home in Caroline County, Virginia, startled by the sound of men in their room and the glare of flashlights on their faces. One of the three intruders demanded to know who they were and what they were doing in bed together. Mildred Loving murmured, “I’m his wife,” and Richard Loving pointed to a marriage certificate hanging on the wall. “That’s no good here,” retorted the trio’s leader, Sheriff R. Garnett Brooks. The young couple were arrested and jailed.¹

    Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving had been seeing each other for...

  12. 7 Power and Policy in an American State: Federal Courts, Political Rights, and Policy Outcomes
    (pp. 170-197)

    The date was Tuesday, June 16, 1964. Page 1 of theRichmond Times-Dispatchoffered all kinds of evidence that the Virginia of U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. found itself under assault. Among the frontpage headlines that day, two reported on federal courts and segregated schools. “Negro Pupils Assigned to 3 White Schools Here,” warned one. “Defiance to Court Order Hinted in Prince Edward,” noted another. But the voice of Virginia’s capital reserved much the largest type that day for a headline shouting “Court Orders State to Realign Districts.” Three separate stories followed, each with a title in large print:...

  13. 8 From Harry Byrd to Douglas Wilder: Gender, Race, and Judgeships
    (pp. 198-209)

    James W. Wilder and Agnes W. Johnson were the parents of thirteen children. They were slaves in Virginia when they married in 1857 and when their older children were born but had long since gained their freedom when their youngest child, Robert Judson Wilder, was born in Richmond in 1886. Robert Wilder and his wife, Beulah, had ten children, the next youngest of them born in 1931, also in Richmond, and named after poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Lawrence Douglas Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University in 1951, served in the Korean War, where he was awarded...

  14. Epilogue: Neither Blue Laws nor Black Laws
    (pp. 210-216)

    In 1889 a mixed-race American writer, Charles W. Chesnutt, took aim at laws that restricted people’s opportunities and behavior on the basis of their racial identities. Such laws were very real at the time he wrote, but he hoped for a time when they would be no more: “Some day they will, perhaps, become mere curiosities of jurisprudence; the ‘black laws’ will be bracketed with the ‘blue laws,’ and will be at best but landmarks by which to measure the progress of the nation.”¹

    At the time Chesnutt wrote, black laws governed the South with particular force, though—as with...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 217-254)
  16. Index
    (pp. 255-270)