On September 14, 1974, the White League, a coalition of citizen club members, took control of the Louisiana government by force in New Orleans and replaced the Republican governor with their own (Steedman, 2009). The White League was a White Supremacist organization with ties to the Democratic Party. According to the Ouachita Telegraph, the raid on the capital was triggered by the New Orleans Police attempting to seize an arms shipment making its way to the White League. The police raid was led by the former Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, which suggests that not all Southern white conservatives agreed with the use of violence to reestablish white rule (Steedman, 2009). Fifty white and black leaders formed the Louisiana Unification Movement for the purpose of drawing freedmen away from the Republican Party, in the spirit of compromise, but this effort failed.


Racist Democrats in Louisiana used a number of methods to control the social and political status of freedmen, including issuing work permits based on political affiliation, enacting Black Codes, engaging in election fraud, and the use of violence. Freedmen responded by running for office, joining the Republican Party, and revising the Louisiana Constitution to outlaw slavery in the state, while the U.S. Congress and the President enacted supportive legislation and occupied the state with military forces. Despite the strong response by the federal government and the courageous actions of former slaves, the political and social atmosphere during Reconstruction in Louisiana, especially the racially-motivated violence, made it clear that freedmen did not enjoy full citizenship.

Second class citizenship for freedmen was enforced by Black Codes enacted throughout the South. These Codes were designed to keep freedmen tied to and working on plantations (Stewart, 1998). Black Codes were passed at the local level throughout the South and were effectively vagrancies laws. Gary Stewart describes the Black Codes as one variation, in a long history of vagrancy laws, designed to keep second class citizens in their place. Based on Stewart's analysis, the Black Codes eventually led to passage of contemporary anti-gang legislation. For example, the Broken Windows policing strategy gives wide discretion to police officers to maintain social order, similar to the wording in Black Codes. One of the more famous examples is the now defunct "Stop-and-Frisk" policing policy used by the New York Police Department, which was recently held to be racially biased and therefore unconstitutional (Goldstein, 2013).

Second class citizenship was also institutionalized within at least one federal agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Johnson, 2011). The South and the rest of the country needed to restore its economy and supporting farmers was integral to this effort. When it came time to allocate federal money to Southern states, however, the USDA ceded control to local governments. The Morrill Act of 1890 included a separate but equal clause reminiscent of the Jim Crow laws that had been enacted across the South when formal Reconstruction ended in 1877. Formal segregation was not ended within the USDA until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed; however, a class action lawsuit alleging the USDA discriminated against non-white farmers when awarding loans and subsidies resulted in a billion dollar settlement as recently as 1999. It is hard to argue with claims of discrimination when the number of black farmers decreased by 90% between 1964 and 1997. There seems to be no end to the impact of slavery on American politics and society.


Goldstein, Joseph. (2013, Aug. 12). Judge rejects New York's Stop-and-Frisk Policy. New York Times, A1.

Goluboff, Risa L. (2001). The Thirteenth Amendment and the lost origins of civil rights. Duke Law Journal, 50(6), 1609-1685.

Johnson, Kimberley S. (2011). Racial orders, Congress, and the agricultural welfare state, 1865-1940. Studies in American Political Development, 25, 143-161.

Steedman, Marek D. (2009). Resistance, rebirth, and…