They Passed A Law To Keep Black People From Testifying In Court

jury box in wharton county courthouse in wharton texas
Zain Murdock
November 17, 2022

Just because Confederate states lost the Civil War didn’t mean their attacks on the livelihoods on us would come to a halt, even if we were newly-minted “citizens.”  So, on October 26, 1866, Texas proved just  that.

“Persons of color shall not testify,” the new law read, “except where the prosecution is against a person who is a person of color … [or the offense was] committed against the person or property of a person of color.” 

What did this mean?

Black people could only testify if the plaintiff was Black or if the end goal was to get another Black person locked up. Even when they fit the requirements to testify, they were often still ignored. 

The risk and power of testimony in the criminal legal system throughout history cannot be underestimated.

For example, after Black witnesses testified in the 1955 Emmett Till case, Medgar Evers and other NAACP officials had to sneak them out of town to preserve their lives. 

Inversely, when white women agreed to make false rape testimonies about the Scottsboro Boys in 1931, it led to death penalty sentences.

From history to now, we deserve better than this country granting and taking away our “rights” as it pleases. The criminal legal system isn’t about our justice or safety. It never has been.

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