White lawmakers created Florida’s “Black Codes,” encoding the overtly discriminatory laws into the 1865 Constitution of the State of Florida. These laws aimed to keep the legacy of slavery alive by curtailing the rights of Black Floridians, and they criminalized poverty by instituting laws that targeted Black people and imposing hefty criminal fees as a punishment.
Florida has a long history of subverting the rights of Black Floridians and criminalizing poverty. In the aftermath of the Civil War and the fall of the Confederacy came passage of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished the institution of slavery. Florida, along with other Southern state legislatures comprised of “former slaveholders and ex-confederates,” passed a set of measures that were designed to govern Black people within the context of their newly obtained freedom and rights. Known as the Black Codes, the implications of these laws are still present today, as Black Floridians continue to carry the brunt of criminal fines and fees. One effect of these policies still being felt today is the implementation legislation passed in 2019 that requires full payment of fines and fees before people with past felony convictions can have their voting rights restored as required in the Florida Constitution. In 2016, it was estimated that 21 percent of disenfranchised Floridians are Black, even though Black Floridians comprise only 17 percent of the overall population.
For more information about the Black Codes, visit other policy areas of The Florida Timeline: