Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in History

First Advisor

Robert J. Haws

Second Advisor

Michael de Laval Landon

Third Advisor

David G. Sansing

Relational Format



The study of American legal institutions and practices provides valuable information regarding American society. This analysis focuses on the County Court of Lafayette County, Mississippi from its creation in 1865 until its dissolution in 1870. In order to assess the role of this court during Reconstruction, the types of cases and participants for the five-year period were analyzed.

The County Court system was established by the Mississippi state legislature in 1865 to manage the anticipated surge of criminal activity caused by the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves. This research discovered that although there was a considerable amount of criminal and civil activity in the County Court in 1866, there was a marked decrease in criminal activity in the years following. Significantly, this analysis proves that newly freed slaves were very rarely charged with any crimes in the County Court of Lafayette County after 1866. Instead, after 1866, civil lawsuits dominated the docket. The residents of Mississippi recognized this departure from the specific purpose of the County Court and adapted the judicial institutions of the state to the new conditions.

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