The Law and Economics of Post-Civil War Restrictions on Interstate Migration by African-Americans
George Mason University School of Law
George Mason University Law and Economics Working Paper No. 96-03
In the decades after the Civil War, southern states attempted to prevent African-Americans from migrating by passing emigrant agent laws. These laws essentially banned interstate labor recruitment. The Supreme Court upheld emigrant agent laws in the little-known case of Williams v. Fears in 1900. The history of emigrant agent laws provides evidence that: (1) state action played a larger role in discrimination against African-Americans than is generally acknowledged; (2) laissez-faire jurisprudence was potentially helpful to disenfranchised African-Americans; and (3) the federalist structure of the U.S. provided African-Americans with opportunities to improve their lot through internal migration.
JEL Classification: J6, J7working papers series
Date posted: August 8, 1996
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