black code


plural black codes
in U.S. history
: any of various racially discriminatory laws that were passed in 1865 and 1866 in states that had been part of the Confederate States of America and that were enacted in order to maintain white supremacy (see white supremacy sense 2) after the formal abolition of slavery at the end of the American Civil War

Word History


probably translation of French Code Noir, any of several law codes regulating free or enslaved Africans, or persons of African descent, in French Caribbean colonies and Louisiana

First Known Use

1865, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of black code was in 1865

Dictionary Entries Near black code

Cite this Entry

“Black code.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

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