Terror of Jim Crow Research Paper

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Jim Crow

The terror of Jim Crow

The struggle for equality in America received a near lethal blow through the implementation of Jim Crow laws. The advances made during the reconstruction period were rolled back as States chose to engage widespread racism and discrimination. These discriminatory practices would eventually become solidly established as elements of the social structure. Through the convergence of multiple elements and widespread struggle, the laws were eventually overturned. This essay examines the development and demise of Jim Crow laws. It is undeniable that these laws changed the landscape of the American society.

The use of the term Jim Crow refers not to a specific individual but rather to a series of racially driven practices designed to depersonalize, humiliate, and intimidate African-Americans during the post slavery period in the United States. The fictional character Jim Crow was animated in a song performed by Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy Rice"1. Dartmouth was a white performer who as part of his performance painted his face black and emulated a supposed black. Rice played a character called "Jump Jim Crow." Jim Crow was an elderly black man owed by one "Mr. Crow" 2. In his song, Dartmouth denigrated Blacks and depicted them as promiscuous, infantile and of limited intelligence. The Jump Jim Crow song was an elaborate ditty and became very popular. The song was celebrated within the White community as an accurate picture of the Black community.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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The Jim Crow song was employed to poke fun at the policies of Andrew Jackson. The song would be later used to represent all African-Americans, and the policies used to vilify them. Of course, this would not be possible if the wider environment was not open to the suggestion and saw it as a viable option. A cadre of gifted political, religious, and community leaders supported the laws. The media were also complicit in the advancement of the segregationist agenda, as offensive language and racial slurs were routinely used to describe Blacks3. Thus at the heart of the Jim Crow laws was segregation and hatred.

The Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local laws established around 1876 and which ended in the mid-1960s4. The laws required that Blacks be kept separate from Whites in public places (segregation). The underlying principle for the separation was the idea of "separate but equal." The separate but equal perspective suggested that Blacks and White could co-exist in the same environment without integrating the various populations. It also suggested that equal services should be provided for Black communities. These services were to be comparable to the facilities in White communities. However, this reality never materialized, as there were major differences in the treatment, accommodations, and opportunities of Blacks and Whites. Pilgrim suggests that Jim Crow was not simply a set of laws but amounted to a way of life, in which African-Americans became second-class citizens5. These differences therefore became institutionalized and socially entrenched over time.

The laws themselves covered a wide array of public behavior. The scope of the laws reflected the set of erroneous assumptions that were prevalent at the time. It was believed that Whites were superior to Blacks in every aspect of life. They were superior in moral behavior, civil conduct, and intelligence. Sexual intimacy between Blacks and Whites was expressly forbidden, as the offspring would be a "mongrel race" that would eventually erode the wholesome nature of the national community. This interaction was mainly understood as Black men with White women and not the other way around. It was quite common during the period of slavery and beyond for White males to have black concubines and have children by them. Any form of social equality that would progress to other forms of equality was vehemently resisted through law.

It is important to note that the Jim Crow laws were contrary to the laws of the Federal government that guaranteed civil rights to African-Americans. The Jim Crow laws could not gain the necessary traction unless they received legislative support from the Supreme Court. This support came via the case Plessy vs. Ferguson. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Louisiana law that required "separate but equal" conditions for blacks and whites on trains was constitutional6. This ruling made it legal to have segregation as long as the conditions were comparable.

The Jim Crow regime comprised a set of laws and norms for ethical behavior. The laws excluded blacks from "public transport and facilities, juries, jobs, and neighborhoods."7 Some examples of laws are "Libraries (the) state librarian is directed to fit up and maintain a separate place for the use of the colored people who may come to the library for the purpose of reading books or periodicals. North Carolina"8. Then there were the laws against intermarriage "Intermarriage The marriage of a white person with a negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful and void. Mississippi"9 and finally laws mandating separate education "Education Separate schools shall be maintained for the children of the white and colored races. Mississippi"10. As noted the laws covered a multiplicity of behavior and governed every facet of life, these vignettes provide a sense of the strictures produced by the laws.

Not only were the laws highly oppressive but they were maintained with by a fierce system of sanctions. The system of sanctions involved the use of threatened and actual violence. This was often coupled with loss of property and even loss of life. Pericles posits that in Florida where intermarriage was banned. Any couple found living in the same household could receive imprisonment for a year or a $500 fine.11 However; the severest punishments were employed as a form of terror. Perloff notes that lynching was used to strike terror within the black community and to roll back gains made through social reforms12.

Lynchings were therefore used as a way to control black communities socially. The lynchings took place in the public and amounted to public murders conducted by very sadistic individuals.13 While Whites held, the position that most of the victims were guilty there is enough evidence to suggest that this was far from the case. Many of the persons who were lynched had little connection to the crime they were accused of committing. An analysis of 728 victims showed that what was occurring was the subjugation of a group of a minority using political terror14. Violence was a tool to support the racist system of segregation.

The African-American community never accepted the Jim Crow laws. Members of the community engaged in various forms of resistance to the laws legal and otherwise. This resistance was met with counter resistance by whites. The urban race riots form part of this resistance and counter resistance dialectic. According to Ward the urban race riots were the result of lower class whites feeling threatened by the competition form blacks for jobs, housing and other opportunities.15 This sense of entitlement and fear exploded into open racial conflict within the cities. The blacks defended themselves from their attackers. The race riots were different from lynchings in that they were directed toward entire communities instead of specific individuals.16

Ward also identifies two waves of urban riots. The first wave came after the civil war where the dramatic changes to the social landscape as a result of the defeat of the South and the attendant issues, initiated deep fear within whites.17 The loss of power and control over emancipated blacks was a primary concern, this fear gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan and much of the first wave of urban race riots.

The next wave of the urban race riots began in the final decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th .18 Increased vituperative Jim Crow language, and the efforts to entrench legally segregation and discrimination, spawned this new wave of racial riots. This wave of violence was nationwide. The final wave of race riots surfaced during the First World War. While, this wave presented some new realities, it was still firmly based in the old racial fears of the attempts to create an equal society. Blacks however were very angry during this period as the push for equality was sternly resisted from many areas. Additionally, many of the black service men returning from fighting in the war were not prepared to accept the status quo. They demanded change and they were prepared to fight to achieve their demands. During this period, there was one of the deadliest times known as the "Red Summer." The "Red Summer" was marked by "a national frenzy of clashes, massacres, and lynchings throughout the North and South. All were started by Whites." 19

Many of the presidents of the United States have played a role in the demise of Jim Crow. The role of Lyndon B. Johnson is one of the most compelling and useful. President Johnson was a son of the South and had firsthand knowledge and experience with the effect… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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