Jim Crow Laws
From the 1877 into the 1960s, many states in the US enforced segregation through "Jim Crow" laws. Jim Crow was
1.) the nickname of the segregation system which operated in southern, western, and some northern states.
2.) a series of rigid anti-Black laws and a way of life.
3.) a way of keeping African Americans to the status of second class citizens.
4.) the legalization of racism in America
The term Jim Crow came from a white performer in the 1830s. This actor - singer, painted his face black, mimicked an elderly black man he encountered while traveling through the South, and sang and danced as this Negro.
The first segregation law was in 1830 in Massachusetts which allowed railroads the right to have separate rail cars for whites and blacks.
The Jim Crow system was based on the belief that: Whites were superior to Blacks including but not limited to civilized behavior, intelligence, and morality. It was believed that treating Blacks as equals would encourage interracial unions, so, if necessary, violence must be used to keep Blacks “in their place.”
The following as Jim Crow etiquette norms (not laws):
A Black male could not offer his hand (to shake hands) with a White male because it implied being socially equal. A Black male could not offer his hand to a White woman, because he risked being accused of rape.
Blacks and Whites DO NOT eat together.
A Black male could not offer to light the cigarette of a White female -- that gesture implied intimacy.
Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public
Blacks were introduced to Whites, never Whites to Blacks
Blacks were called by their first names not courtesy titles like Miss or Sir. Blacks had to use courtesy titles when referring to Whites, and were not allowed to call them by their first names.
If a Black person rode in a car driven by a White person, the Black person sat in the back seat
White motorists had the right-of-way at all intersections and white pedestrians had the right of way on sidewalks to the point where blacks were expected to cross the street to avoid being on the same side of the street as whites
Blacks did not make eye contact with white women
The Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) legitimized Jim Crow laws ruling that “separate but equal” was legal in America. As long as facilities are equal, they may remain segregated from one another.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) In 1890, Louisiana passed the "Separate Car Law," which created "equal but separate" cars for Blacks and Whites on its railroads. In reality, no public accommodations, including railway travel, provided Blacks with equal facilities. The Louisiana law made it illegal for Blacks to sit in coach seats reserved for Whites, and Whites could not sit in seats reserved for Blacks. In 1891, a group of Blacks decided to test the law. Homer A. Plessy, who was 7/8 White and 1/8 Black was chosen to sit in the White-only rail car. He was arrested. Plessy's lawyer argued that Louisiana did not have the right to label one citizen as White and another Black for the purposes of restricting their rights and privileges. In 1896, the Supreme Court disagreed. It ruled that so long as state governments provided legal process and legal freedoms for Blacks, equal to those of Whites, they could maintain separate institutions to facilitate these rights. The Court, by a 7-2 vote, upheld the Louisiana law, declaring that “separate but equal was legal. Plessy legitimized two separate societies: one White-advantaged; the other, Black-disadvantaged and despised.
This decision had a huge negative impact on the Black race in America. Blacks were denied the right to vote by grandfather clauses (laws that restricted the right to vote to people whose ancestors had voted before the Civil War), poll taxes (fees charged to poor Blacks), white primaries (only Democrats could vote, only Whites could be Democrats), and literacy tests ("Name all the Vice Presidents and Supreme Court Justices throughout America's history"). Plessy sent this message to southern and border states: Discrimination against Blacks is acceptable.
Jim Crow laws touched every aspect of everyday life. For example, in 1935, Oklahoma prohibited Blacks and Whites from boating together. Boating implied social equality. In 1905, Georgia established separate parks for Blacks and Whites. In 1930, Birmingham, Alabama, made it illegal for Blacks and Whites to play checkers or dominoes together.
Intermarriage between races was outlawed in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Maryland, California, and Wyoming etc. In fact 26 of 48 states outlawed it including Massachusetts until 1887.
Examples of Jim Crow Laws are:
Amateur Baseball It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race. Georgia
Restaurants It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama
Education Separate free schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent; and it shall be unlawful for any colored child to attend any white school, or any white child to attend a colored school. Missouri
Textbooks Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them. North Carolina
Fishing, Boating, and Bathing The [Conservation] Commission shall have the right to make segregation of the white and colored races as to the exercise of rights of fishing, boating and bathing. Oklahoma
Lunch Counters No persons, firms, or corporations, who or which furnish meals to passengers at station restaurants or station eating houses, in times limited by common carriers of said passengers, shall furnish said meals to white and colored passengers in the same room, or at the same table, or at the same counter. South Carolina
Blacks who violated Jim Crow like drinking from the White water fountain or trying to vote, risked their homes, jobs, even lives. Whites could physically beat Blacks without punishment. Blacks had little legal power against assaults because the criminal justice system was all-White: police, prosecutors, judges, juries, and prison officials.
Violence was instrumental for Jim Crow norms and laws to succeed. It was a method of social control. The most extreme forms of Jim Crow violence were lynchings.
Lynching: means to kill someone (usually by a mob), most often by hanging, for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial.
The word “lynch” came from the 19th century “Lynch Law” named after a Captain Lynch (1780) who headed a self-constituted tribunal in Virginia.
Lynchings were public, often sadistic, murders carried out by mobs. Between 1882, when the first reliable data were collected, and 1968, there were 4,730 known lynchings, including 3,440 Black men and women. Most of the victims of Lynch-Law were hanged or shot, but some were burned at the stake, castrated, beaten, or dismembered. Whites were victims of lynchings, however by the 1870s, Blacks became the most frequent victims. Lynching was an intimidation tool to keep Blacks, "in their places." (Read America’s Favorite Past-time and Emmett Till.) The great majority of lynchings occurred where the resentment against Blacks ran deepest. According to the social economist Gunnar Myrdal: "The southern states account for nine-tenths of the lynchings. More than two thirds of the remaining one-tenth occurred in the six states which immediately border the South." Arthur Raper investigated nearly a century of lynchings and concluded that approximately one-third of all the victims were falsely accused. Most Blacks were lynched for demanding civil rights, violating Jim Crow etiquette or laws, or in the aftermath of race riots.
Lynchings were most common in small and middle-sized towns where Blacks often were economic competitors to the local Whites. These Whites resented any gains made by Blacks. Lynchers were seldomly arrested, and if arrested, rarely convicted. Raper estimated that "at least one-half of the lynchings are carried out with police officers participating, and that in nine-tenths of the others the officers either condone or wink at the mob action." Lynching served many purposes: it was cheap entertainment; it served as a rallying, uniting point for Whites; it functioned as an ego-massage for low-income, low-status Whites; it was a method of defending White domination and helped stop or retard the fledgling social equality movement.
Lynch mobs directed their hatred against one (sometimes several) victims. The victim was an example of what happened to a Black man who tried to vote, or who looked at a White woman, or who tried to get a White man's job. Unfortunately for Blacks, sometimes the mob was not satisfied to murder a single or several victims. Instead, in the spirit of pogroms, the mobs went into Black communities and destroyed additional lives and property. Their immediate goal was to drive out -- through death or expulsion -- all Blacks; the larger goal was to maintain, at all costs, White supremacy.
Lynchings became rare in the era following the civil rights movement, but they do still occur sometimes. In 1981, KKK members in Alabama randomly picked out a nineteen-year-old black, Michael Donald, and murdered him in retaliation for a jury's acquittal of a black accused of murdering a police officer.
The best-known lynching in modern US history was that of James Byrd, Jr. in 1998 in Jasper, Texas. Byrd, a 49-year-old father of three who had accepted an early-morning ride home with Berry, King, Brewer, was instead beaten, stripped, chained to a pickup truck, and dragged for almost three miles. An autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive for much of the dragging and died only after his right arm and head were severed when his body hit a culvert. The three murderers dumped his mutilated remains in the town's segregated Black cemetery, and then went to a barbeque.