This Essay is the first general survey of the taxation of free Blacks in free and slave states between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. A few states treated all equally for tax purposes, but most states enacted taxation systems that subjected free Blacks to different requirements. Both free and slave states viewed free Blacks as an undesirable population, and this Essay posits that—within the relevant political constraints—states used taxes and tax exemptions to dissuade free Black immigration and limit the opportunities for free Blacks within their borders. This topic is salient for at least two reasons. First, the Essay sheds light on laws and events that the literature—and the American educational system—has largely ignored. It directly contradicts the commonly held belief that free Blacks largely enjoyed the same set of rights and privileges as their White counterparts until Jim Crow and the Black Codes set in after the Civil War. Second, by juxtaposing then-widely prevailing views with historical tax laws, this Essay underscores the inherent relationship between tax policy and social policy. Taxes have never been just about bolstering the public fisc. Although this Essay will hopefully never have direct applicability to contemporary events, it can provide insight into current and future tax policies and the extent to which history, prejudice, and economic concerns inform policymakers’ decisions.
Christopher J. Bryant,
Without Representation, No Taxation: Free Blacks, Taxes, and Tax Exemptions Between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol21/iss1/4