Black Codes, Reconstruction Plots and White Economic Warfare

By Pamela B. Muhammad -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: May 17, 2019 - 11:41:31 AM

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According to an April 30, 2019 article I read  in The Final Call  newspaper Ice Cube,  the popular entertainer and business man, is one of the founders of  the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball  league. The BIG3’s investment group  had a bid  to purchase 21 regional sports networks (RSN).  

In an April 2019 letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of  Justice, the BIG3 investment group alleged that their bid to purchase RSN is being interfered with by Charter Communications who is threatening  to drop RSN from the Charter Communication cable network   based upon issues surrounding possible new ownership of RSN by BIG3.


Unfair deal making by White business owners interfering with Black people’s ability to engage in trade and commerce goes back as far as the Reconstruction  Era, when private farmers in the South refused to pay, hire or do business with the newly-freed slaves. This practice is known as racial discrimination by private cartels.   

This  modern day  scenario with Charter Communications threatening to take the  punitive action of dropping RSN networks during the bid negotiations by BIG3’s  group of  Black investors whom were seeking to obtain ownership of  RSN  from Disney and causing a reduction in the value of RSN, could reflect a scenario where today’s Black business investors are in the position of the past “newly-freed Black  slaves” during Reconstruction. Today, some White-owned companies are showing once again they don’t want the money that the Black investors have to make this deal. Instead it is a racist “understanding”  in some corporate American companies historically of the White supremist  idea of keeping Blacks at slave status. And keeping  the receipt of benefits both  financial and otherwise reaped by Whites by maintaining a status  of superiority and  protecting this status.

Racial discrimination is a form of cartel behavior, groups knitted together by ties of kinship, race, culture or custom and holding levers of power desired by other groups agree to minimize competition by these other groups. We are shown from history the obvious pattern of Blacks being blocked out by Whites.

Examples of trade interference against Blacks are found in what are known as the Black Codes which were the law during the period of Reconstruction:

“Freedman (Blacks) not allowed to hire out without written permission from master; planters (whites) held meetings to prohibit

“... Planters have an understanding among themselves, you won’t hire my niggers and I won’t hire yours …

“Whites made agreements not to lease or sell property to Blacks”

Private cartel-like behavior among Whites is historical and shown in such historical documented practices as White planters conspiring to use anti-competitive schemes to keep Blacks in line. Practices such as wage fixing, model contracts, labor market divisions, capital boycotts, service tying were common. Further research found “these combinations  formed against blacks were sometimes overt, tacitly accepted and sometimes unspoken but understood.” White citizens and authorities acknowledged their intent by saying “that it is for their interest to drive out all independent negro labor.” With the planters combining to compel Blacks to work under these monopolistic conditions, one Congressman described the inability of Blacks to overcome this private discrimination as “the slave now having a mob for a master.” In a research study, an author suggests “promoting the group status benefits,” such as the prestige for Whites, explains why racial cartels survive, despite the offer of money that can be gained by individual members.”

Under Jim Crow practices in the South, when defectors failed to act in alignment with the cartels’ mission of blocking Black entry into industries and commerce,  they would be punished as race traitors. This is known as “group status protection” among White business owners through the denial of opportunities for Blacks to do business. This protects the superior status of the group and strengthens the cartel.

This is the type of racism that has blocked Black economic progress from slavery to today where today we see, just like then, groups of individuals who agree not to sell to Blacks through private agreements. This is the same denial of trade and commerce as when there were written laws overtly used to  protect racial exclusion through written Black Codes.

13-year-old sharecropper Photo: Library of Congress
I am a fan and admire the long history of Black excellence in the areas of sports and entertainment that these Black men and women business investors have shown. We are now seeing their business acumen combined with their  intention to bring positive economics to the Black community. This is laudable and represents the “God Rising” in our people seen in our late Brother Nipsey Hussle who combined fame and entrepreneurship. Nation of Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke of this at the young Brother Nipsey Hussle’s public memorial that is a must see.    

However, history reveals that the very laws being relied upon  to give a ruling  to the BIG3’s Black investor’s complaint and request for regulation and market fairness, under  the Antitrust laws, came from prior Civil Rights Act of  1866  that was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson during Reconstruction. He stopped any protections for the newly freed Blacks from the schemes used against them by private White planters (cartels) to prevent their Economic success. The 1866 Act was openly opposed by some members in the 39th Congress overtly on the basis of White supremacy. Delaware Senator Willard Saulsbury, Sr., is recorded on the record, as calling the bill “an insane effort to elevate the African race to the dignity of the white race.”

The  1866  Act, instead of being used to protect the rights of the victims of slavery from further collusive and racist conduct such as  price fixing, bid rigging and market division agreements, was redirected to the use of  regulating wealth and economic policy in Post Slavery America. With the vast power and wealth of trust in the 1880s, companies such as Standard Oil Trust of Rockefeller (1882), American Cotton Oil Trust (1884), the National Lindseed Oil Trust (1885), the National Lead Trust (1887) and the Whiskey and Sugar Trust, Congress redrafted the Reconstruction legislation intended to protect Blacks against private cartel discrimination, and made it into the Sherman Antitrust Act using the metaphors of slavery and liberty when talking about the effect of economic centralization—just as they had used the term to describe Southern oppression in the 1860s and 1870s. John Sherman, the namesake of the law, was a member of the Reconstruction Congress along with Senator George Edmunds who had help draft both laws.

As a Black attorney with a B.S. degree in Computer Information Systems  and a love for Entrepreneurship, I believe that we as business investors must shift our goals toward attainable and workable benchmarks. Ultimately we must go for self and build our own. Since we have been used by these economic cartels to keep us dependent on them, with little to no benefit for us as a Black community, let us unite and pool our talents and skills for economic benefit. Quoting Brother Jabril Muhammad in his article entitled, “Critical, divine and mathematical thinking”:  “… Conditions force us to think creatively to help ourselves or go down with this ailing economy.”

I believe one solution for Black business investors is to continue to build their own cable platforms, internet platforms or other independent medium as we are being forced to  separate from the cold economic  price fixing schemes of our enemy, that have locked us out of many of the promises of America’s economic freedom since the end of chattel slavery.

The BIG3’s League’s Black business investors have superstar status and are certainly moving in the right direction toward Economic Independence and we appreciate their efforts. It is a great day as we are being taught by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, that “Business is Warfare.”

It is with this knowledge given to us by him that he was given by his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, that we should use. We will not be outsmarted if we follow the Economic Blueprint found in “Message to the Blackman.”

Pamela Muhammad is a practicing attorney based in Houston. Contact: Pamela Muhammad@pamlegal2000.