The “twenty-negro law” was implemented by the Louisiana legislature in 1894, making it illegal for blacks to live within 1.5 miles of any other person who was white.
The law was explicitly based on racial violence, boiling down to “the ‘bad Negro’ must be prohibited from coming into contact with other whites.”
The answer is discussed here for, why did the “twenty-negro law” enrage many white southerners during the civil war?
In an effort to help ease racial tension and violence in the South, many politicians were against this legislation as a colossal waste of state funds, as well as a violation of civil rights.
The law was meant to place the “bad blacks” of New Orleans in jails and workhouses, while placing the “good blacks” into plantation life.
Here are some points discussed about why negro law is implemented-
1. Negro law was implemented to avoid racial tension in the south.
This law was intended to be a means to regulate blacks who were moving into cities like New Orleans. This law provided the state the ability to control the movement of southern blacks.
Negro Law also created economic growth for Louisiana by forcing blacks into labor intensive plantations where they could be used at little cost to southern employers, providing them with African American labor at no cost.
During this time period, blacks were seen as a source for cheap labor, so many states made laws that would force these people in plantations in order to avoid extra costs in feeding and sheltering these people when they could be used elsewhere for free labor.
2. Law was intended to be a means to regulate blacks.
In addition, during this time, Louisiana had one of the highest death rates in the nation. The state was described as being “nearly depopulated” because of this high mortality rate.
Since African Americans were living in New Orleans at the time, they worked on levee contracts. This labor allowed them to earn enough to move into towns and cities outside of plantations.
This concerned Louisiana officials since it meant that they wouldn’t have free labor available for their plantations anymore. Louisiana produced more cotton than any other state, and had over 35% of the nation’s black laborers.
3. Law was intended to provide free labor for Louisiana plantations.
Since blacks were moving into cities, this law prohibited them from living within 1.5 miles of any white person in order to keep blacks out of plantation areas where they could be used for free labor.
Therefore, African Americans were forced back into plantations where they were being used for free labor again.
This way, Louisiana could continue to use their black laborers without paying them. This law was put forward by Louisiana legislators, and was referred to as “the province of the white man”.
4. Law had a racially motivated purpose.
Louisiana also wanted to control the issue of race in New Orleans due to many blacks living in large towns freer than others, buying property and business that they would not have otherwise been able to afford.
This encouraged blacks to move into these cities which then created tensions with whites since more blacks moved into this area than Louisiana wanted there to be.
5. Law was created to create an “ideal” black/white relationship.
The law was also created to force blacks into towns and cities that already produce enough labor for their plantations and states, and keep them out of plantation areas which would be used for free labor.
At the same time, it made it nearly impossible for them to move into town or cities where they could be independent, own property, etc.
Since Louisiana was such a large cotton producing state during this time period, they wanted as many blacks as possible in their fields so they could continue producing cotton at such a high level.
6. Law was based on racial issues in New Orleans.
During this time period, blacks moved into the city of New Orleans, despite already having a large African American population in the city.
The large African American population created social and political organizations that allowed them to live more freely than in other areas of the South.
To combat this problem, Louisiana officials made it illegal for blacks to live near white people in order to stop their influence towards whites and others who aren’t black.
7. Law was used to control and manipulate Blacks and their movement.
Black leaders became involved in politics in order to help control the movement of African American communities.
These African American communities would receive charity from the state, but simultaneously they were being forced to live near plantations with little possibility of moving out, thus being used for free labor.