Jim Crow Laws

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Segregation can be defined as the action of setting someone or something apart from other people. It can also be an enforced separation of different racial groups in a country, community, or establishment. This paper will allow one to see the ideas C. Vann Woodward shared on segregation, reconstruction, and the mixing of two races. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight on the message that Woodward could have wanted his readers to understand regarding segregation. However, the underlying themes of the book and methodology will also be addressed in this paper.

One could argue that C. Vann Woodward wanted his readers to see how segregation wasn't what people thought it was. That the whites and blacks wasn't as detached as it was thought to be by most people. Both races were already co-existing prior to segregation taking place due to slavery. Slavery was only one of several ways by which the white man has sought to define the Negro's status, his 'place,' and assure his subordination.[1] Woodward could have also wanted his readers to understand that slavery did allow for both races to be in close corners. However, it was not the starting place for segregation occurring.

The diverse legal codes known as Jim Crow laws made it where blacks and whites could be separate but seen as equals. It however still made it difficult for blacks to co-exist with the opposite race. Jim Crow Laws refer to segregation laws common in the American South from 1883 to 1954 that permitted various forms of discrimination against African Americans. [2]The introduction to the realization that a separation was taking place between both races was the Jim Crow laws making segregation stricter. Other aspects of segregation appeared early and widely and were sanctioned by Reconstruction authorities.[3] The Jim Crow laws made it harder for blacks and whites to go to the same schools, play together, or even eat at the same places. On the other hand, it somewhat provided them with equal rights. Woodward displayed throughout his writing that both races were co-existing long before those laws became more rigorous. This is another viewpoint that Woodward really wanted his readers to fathom.

The underlying issue in The Strange Career of Jim Crow was that Woodward continued to speak on segregation. Laws designed to enforce racial segregation and deny black Americans their civil rights. [4] One could also claim that Woodward wanted readers to realize that even though both races were divided they were still equals. Jim Crow laws existed to isolate and disenfranchise blacks.[5] Woodward appeared to be a voice for the black Americans and their sense of belonging and co-existing. So much so that Martin Luther King Jr referenced Woodward book as an historical bible of the civil rights movement. A march on Washington by over 200,000 in 1963 dramatized the movement to end Jim Crow. [6] One could assume that Woodward's attitude on black Americans help put things into perspective for the civil right activists.

The methodology of The Strange Career of Jim Crow was written in a way for readers to visualize what they were reading. For example, Woodward stated in his book that the two races now eat together at the same table, sit together in the same room, work together, visit and hold debating societies together. [7] Reading this book, one can get a better visual of what is taking place. Woodward did not use pictures and graphs within his book. However, he did use numbers to give comparisons throughout the reading. One could say that the use of graphs would not have been helpful in reading this book. On the other hand, pictures could have been useful for more visual purposes so that the reader could identify with what was taking place.

Within Woodward's book, it provided detailed information on segregation. It also delivered knowledge on how segregation really began to take effect. Before reading The Strange Career of Jim Crow, the knowledge of the Jim Crow laws could have been unknown to some readers. However, it was very beneficial to learn about how these laws transpired and the reasoning behind it. On the other hand, this book was worth reading and very informative. The book did contribute to the message Woodward could have been trying to relay to his readers. This book is recommended for a good informative read on how segregation really occurred.


[1] C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 11.

[2] Jim Crow Laws. In World of Sociology, Gale, edited by Joseph M. Palmisano. Gale, 2001.

[3] C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 24.

[4] Jim Crow laws. In the Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide, edited by Helicon. Helicon 2016.

[5] Ibid., 1.

[6] Jim Crow laws. In the Columbia Encyclopedia, by Paul Lagasse, and Columbia University, 7th ed. Columbia University Press, 2017.

[7] C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 26.

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Jim Crow Laws. (2019, Nov 12). Retrieved February 23, 2024 , from

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