Visual Documentation of Jim Crow Laws

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The Jim Crow laws are the common unofficial name for the racial segregation laws in some states in the United States between 1890 and 1964. After the Civil War, which freed the black people from slavery, the federal government took steps to ensure their rights. In response, Southern Democrats passed local laws that severely restricted the rights of the black minority who refused deportation to Oklahoma and continued living in the southeastern states.1 These laws became known as the Jim Crow laws, named after the comic character. This paper aims to analyze visual documentation of the white supremacist ideology that undergirds Jim Crow society in the United States.

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One of the first documents that reveal the beginning of the Jim Crow Era is the song of Thomas Rice. The name Crow first appeared in the song “Jump Jim Crow”, sung in 1828 by Thomas Dartmouth (Rice).2 After that, it has become the most important character in the history of blackface, representing most of the black slaves of the South. Rice invented Crow, giving him the features of a random black vagabond. He was depicted as a servant, not amenable to training, disheveled, half-impoverished, but not losing his innate optimism. The significance of this image and song is enormous: the laws on racial segregation passed 30 years after Rice’s death was unofficially called the Jim Crow laws. They became the beginning of the white supremacist ideology that undergirds US society.

The beginning of the Jim Crow Era is considered to be 1890 when racial segregation on the railroad was introduced in Louisiana. This fact is documented in a number of images, for example, the photo of a signboard “Colored Waiting Room” at the bus station in Durham, North Carolina.3 Equivalent to this can be considered toilets in roadside establishments, including at bus stations, in which there was strict segregation by skin color. Moreover, black citizens were not supposed to occupy the first four rows in the buses. This was evidenced by the inscription at the entrance that they were intended only for the whites. If all the seats for white people were occupied, then the seated blacks had to give up their seats.

The blacks paid their fare at the entrance and then had to get off to get on the bus again from the back door. The bus often left before they got to the back door, taking away the fare. They were forced to stand, although the bus had empty “white” seats. Even if there were no white passengers on the bus and there were many blacks, they were not allowed to sit in the first four seats. If all the seats reserved for whites were already occupied by them and new white passengers entered the bus, the blacks had to get up and make way for them. If they refused to do this, they were immediately arrested.

Normally, there were no blacks among the bus drivers, and while only some of them were polite, too many indulged in insults and curses towards blacks. Separate public transport existed until the 1970s, as did the prohibitions on co-location in hotels and motels, the division into cafes and restaurants for the white and “colored” people. This is evidenced by many images, for example, the photo of the side of the Crescent Theater in Belzoni, Mississippi.4 It has the inscription “Colored Adm” and it shows a black man going in the colored entrance of the movie house.

Another sign of segregation was separate schools for whites and blacks. The evidence of this can be seen in DeMarsico’s photo that represents African American children who pass women protesting the busing of children.5 In 1951, Oliver Brown, a black Kansas resident, filed a lawsuit against the City School Board on behalf of his eight-year-old daughter in Brown v. Board of Education.6 In the lawsuit, Brown indicated that his daughter should attend the “white” school, which was 5 blocks from home, as opposed to the “black” one, located 21 blocks away on the opposite outskirts of town.

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When the court dismissed Brown’s claim, other blacks filed similar suits in Kansas and other states. After a series of trials, the case was accepted and it was stated that school segregation deprived black children of equal protection under the law, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Several southern states protested against the decision of the US Supreme Court. The Alabama State Court, in particular, ruled that the Supreme Court’s legal injunction was unfounded due to a conflict with state law. In 1957, federal troops were brought into Little Rock, Arkansas, following the refusal of the governor of the state to comply with a court order.7 In early September, nine black children later known as the Little Rock Nines tried to get to school but were greeted with bayonets by armed State National Guard soldiers under the governor’s command.

Moreover, white children were raised to hate black ones. The photo called “Young boys harassing the Horace Baker family” demonstrates the white children’s aggressive behavior towards the first African American family who has moved into the all-white neighborhood.8 This image explains why the black and white population of the United States still live separately in some areas. The American government has made an effort to create this segregation following the practice that prohibited many blacks from acquiring real estate in certain areas.

By 1915, every Southern state had passed laws that created segregation in schools, hotels, shops, restaurants, hospitals, and transportation. Jim Crow laws limited suffrage only based on electoral tax. By the end of the First World War, African Americans remained second-class citizens, infringed on political, social, and economic rights. They received poor education, life in ghettos, wages half that of white workers, and often inability to participate in elections.9 Discrimination also persisted in the US armed forces during the war years. In the vast majority, African Americans served in separate units, lived in separate barracks, and even in case of need for blood transfusion, they received it from individual stocks.

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The messages conveyed in the images, photographs, and documents of the Jim Crow Era show that racial segregation in the United States was carried out through various social barriers. It included separate education and upbringing, delimitation of landing zones in public transport, cafes, and so on. Almost fifty-seven years ago, the United States ended racial segregation, symbolized by Jim Crow laws. Since then, society has come a long way in building racial equality. However, in recent years, the United States has seen an increase in racially motivated crimes. Legislatively, racial segregation has been abolished, but some of its manifestations are still found today.

Bibliography

Bowser, Benjamin P. “Racism: Origin and Theory.” Journal of Black Studies 48, no. 6 (2017): 572-590.

Epperly, Brad, Christopher Witko, Ryan Strickler, and Paul White. “Rule by Violence, Rule by Law: Lynching, Jim Crow, and the Continuing Evolution of Voter Suppression in the U.S.” Perspectives on Politics 18, no. 3 (2020): 756-769. Web.

“Jim Crow and Segregation | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress, n.d. Web.

Stern, Shai. ““Separate, Therefore Equal”: American Spatial Segregation from Jim Crow to Kiryas Joel.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 7, no. 1 (2021): 67-90.

Footnotes

  1. Benjamin P. Bowser, “Racism: Origin and Theory,” Journal of Black Studies 48, no. 6 (2017): 582.
  2. Brad Epperly et al., “Rule by Violence, Rule by Law: Lynching, Jim Crow, and the Continuing Evolution of Voter Suppression in the U.S.,” Perspectives on Politics 18, no. 3 (2020): 761.
  3. “Jim Crow and Segregation | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress, n.d.
  4. “Jim Crow and Segregation | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress, n.d.
  5. “Jim Crow and Segregation | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress, n.d.
  6. Benjamin P. Bowser, “Racism: Origin and Theory,” Journal of Black Studies 48, no. 6 (2017): 580.
  7. Brad Epperly et al., “Rule by Violence, Rule by Law: Lynching, Jim Crow, and the Continuing Evolution of Voter Suppression in the U.S.,” Perspectives on Politics 18, no. 3 (2020): 759.
  8. Shai Stern, “‘Separate, Therefore Equal’: American Spatial Segregation from Jim Crow to Kiryas Joel,” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 7, no. 1 (2021): 83.
  9. Shai Stern, “‘Separate, Therefore Equal’: American Spatial Segregation from Jim Crow to Kiryas Joel,” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 7, no. 1 (2021): 68.

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DemoEssays. 2022. "Visual Documentation of Jim Crow Laws." September 10, 2022. https://demoessays.com/visual-documentation-of-jim-crow-laws/.

1. DemoEssays. "Visual Documentation of Jim Crow Laws." September 10, 2022. https://demoessays.com/visual-documentation-of-jim-crow-laws/.


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DemoEssays. "Visual Documentation of Jim Crow Laws." September 10, 2022. https://demoessays.com/visual-documentation-of-jim-crow-laws/.