Jim Crow Laws

State and local ordinances known as “Jim Crow laws” made racial segregation lawful. Originally intended to isolate African Americans by denying them the ability to vote, hold employment, receive an education, and other possibilities, the laws—named after a figure from a Black minstrel show—were in place for about a century, from the post-Civil War era until 1968. Jim Crow laws frequently threatened arrest, fines, jail terms, assault, and even murder for anyone who dared to disobey them.

Black Codes

The 13th Amendment’s passage in 1865, which outlawed slavery in the US, marked the beginning of Jim Crow regulations.

Black Codes

Strict municipal and state legislation known as “black codes” specified the times, locations, and methods of employment for former slaves as well as the wages they may get. The codes began to develop throughout the South as a legitimate means of enslaving black people into indentured slavery, restricting their ability to vote, dictating where they could reside and travel, and removing children for forced labor.

Black inhabitants faced discrimination in the legal system because of the presence of former Confederate soldiers serving as judges and police, which hindered their ability to win legal cases and subjected them to black codes.

These laws operated in tandem with prison labor camps, which treated inmates like slaves. Compared to their white counterparts, black offenders frequently got longer sentences and, due to the hard labor involved, did not serve out the whole term.

Ku-Klux Klan

Local governments, the Democratic Party at large, and President Andrew Johnson blocked efforts to assist African Americans in advancing during the Reconstruction era.

African American life was regularly filled with risk as a result of the surge in violence. Nighttime attacks, torture, and lynchings of black people by armed white groups also occurred, along with the destruction and vandalism of black schools. Across the South, families were assaulted and pushed from their property.

The Ku Klux Klan, the most vicious group of the Jim Crow era, began as a private Confederate veterans’ club in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865.

Ku Klux Klan

With members in the highest echelons of the government and in the White House, the Klan developed into a covert organization that terrorized black neighborhoods and permeated white Southern culture with the lowest levels of back alley criminal activity.

Jim Crow Laws Expand

Black Americans enjoyed greater freedom in the larger Southern towns during the beginning of the 1880s because they were not completely subject to Jim Crow legislation.

Due to this, there was a significant influx of black people into the cities, and as the decade went on, white city inhabitants called for further legislation to restrict the options available to African Americans.

Jim Crow laws quickly gained even more traction across the nation than they had before. African Americans were prohibited from entering public parks, and restaurants and theaters were separated.

Bus and rail stations, as well as drinking fountains, bathrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, and even the cashier windows of amusement parks, had to have segregated waiting areas.

It was illegal for African Americans to reside in white communities. Hospitals, phone booths, and public pools all had segregation policies in place.
Black Americans enjoyed greater freedom in the larger Southern towns during the beginning of the 1880s because they were not completely subject to Jim Crow legislation.

Due to this, there was a significant influx of black people into the cities, and as the decade went on, white city inhabitants called for further legislation to restrict the options available to African Americans.

Jim Crow Laws Expand

Jim Crow laws quickly gained even more traction across the nation than they had before. African Americans were prohibited from entering public parks, and restaurants and theaters were separated.

Bus and rail stations, as well as drinking fountains, bathrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, and even the cashier windows of amusement parks, had to have segregated waiting areas.

It was illegal for African Americans to reside in white communities. Hospitals, phone booths, and public pools all had segregation policies in place.

Ida B. Wells

Even though the Jim Crow era was repressive, many African Americans across the country rose to prominence in leadership positions and vehemently opposed the rules at this time.

Ida B. Wells, a teacher in Memphis, rose to prominence as an activist against Jim Crow laws after she refused to get out of a first-class train compartment that was reserved for white people. She filed a winning lawsuit against the railroad when a conductor forced her to leave, but a higher court later overturned that ruling.

Wells dedicated her life to opposing Jim Crow laws out of rage at the injustice. Writing for newspapers served as her medium of protest; in 1889, she co-owned the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, which she used to confront sexual harassment and school discrimination.

Wells journeyed across the South to promote her work and pushed for black individuals’ right to bear arms. Wells also conducted research on lynchings and reported her results.

She had to go to the North in order to continue her fight against lynchings and Jim Crow laws after a mob burned her newspaper and threatened to kill her.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Born in North Carolina and raised in Massachusetts, Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a black woman who moved back to her homeland in 1901 at the age of 17 to serve as an American Missionary Association teacher.

Following the removal of financing for that institution, Brown started seeking money to establish the Palmer Memorial Institute, her own school.

Through her efforts in education, Brown became the first black woman to establish a black school in North Carolina and developed into a vociferous and ferocious opponent of Jim Crow legislation.

Isaiah Montgomery

Not every white person fought for equality within the community; others took a separatist stance.

Former slave Isaiah Montgomery founded the African American-only community of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, in 1887 after becoming convinced by Jim Crow regulations that black and white people could not coexist together.

Ida B. Wells

In order to clear the land and establish a community that included several schools, a hospital, three cotton gins, a bank, a sawmill, and a library supported by Andrew Carnegie, Montgomery enlisted the help of other freed slaves. Mound Bayou is nearly entirely black and is still in existence today.

Jim Crow Laws in the 20th Century

Jim Crow laws developed amid a repressive, violent culture as the 20th century went on.

After World War I, the NAACP saw that lynchings had increased to such an extent that it dispatched detective Walter White to the South. White people may enter white hate organizations and have a lighter complexion.

Jim Crow in the North

Jim Crow laws did not exclude the North from their effects. There were states where black people could not vote unless they owned land, segregated schools and neighborhoods, and saw “Whites Only” signs posted by businesses.

Segregationist Allen Granbery Thurman pledged to prevent black Ohioans from voting when he ran for governor in 1867. Thurman tried to undo Reconstruction-era laws that benefited African Americans in the U.S. Senate after coming just short in that election.

Black families were sometimes unable or prevented from obtaining mortgages for homes in specific “red-lined” communities following World War II, as a result of legal covenants placed in suburban projects in both the North and the South.

When did Jim Crow laws end?

African Americans engaged in more civil rights activism following World War II, primarily to guarantee voting rights for black residents. This marked the beginning of the civil rights movement, which led to the repeal of Jim Crow legislation.

The period of “separate but equal” schooling came to an end in 1954 when the Supreme Court declared in Brown v. Board of Schooling that educational segregation was unconstitutional. President Harry Truman had ordered integration in the military in 1948.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, putting a legal stop to the segregation that Jim Crow laws had imposed.

Jim Crow in the North

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 also put an end to initiatives to prevent minorities from exercising their right to vote. The 1968 Fair Housing Act followed and put a stop to discrimination in house sales and rentals.

Though nominally outlawed, Jim Crow laws haven’t always ensured complete integration or compliance with anti-racism legislation across the country. Jim Crow laws are frequently used to equate a number of current legislative initiatives, such as Mississippi’s House Bill 1020, which sought to disenfranchise Jackson, the state’s majority black capital city, by establishing a separate judicial district under the direction of white officials.

Sources

Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall Wormser, Richard.
America is segregated. National Museum of Art.
Laws that Jim Crowed Park Service of the Nation
“Taking Advantage of Black Labor Following the Abolition of Slavery,” The Discussion
“Red Summer” claimed hundreds of black American lives; a century later, the deaths were still unrecognized.” USA Today/Associated Press
“This Is What’s Becoming Of A Mississippi Delta Historic All-Black Town.” N.P.

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