Racial Segregation: Jim Crow Laws

About a hundred years after the Civil War, almost all Americans lived under the Jim Crow laws. Segregation and Racism still continues in the US as it did in the early 1900’s. The Jim Crow laws were racial segregation laws enacted between 1876-1965. The segregation for African Americans intended to be inferior to white Americans. Some examples of the Jim Crow laws are the segregation of public schools, public transportation, restrooms, and drinking fountains. Even the U.S military was segregated.

The Jim Crow laws have influenced many people in the U.S over the years especially in the 1800’s-1900’s. The Jim Crow laws have aided in racism. For example, intermarriage of a white with an African American was illegal. They had separate schools for which the two races attended. They had separate facilities for everything. The separations between the two races seem to make them hate each other. These racially enforced rules dominated almost every aspect of life, not to mention directed the punishments for any infraction. One race was seen better than the other. These laws made it impossible of having whites or blacks joined together in any way. Intermarriage was illegal and if there were biracial couples they were either talked about or scolded. There were so many boundaries that made it hard for everyone to get along. No one had the right to get into contact with another race.

The key reason for the Jim Crow Laws was to keep African Americans as close to their former selves as slaves as was possible. That’s why the whites had newer facilities than the blacks. Due to the Jim Crow Laws, African Americans were given the status of second class citizens. The Jim Crow Laws can automatically take away the rights of African Americans. They were mainly used in the southern states between 1877 and the 1960’s. White people thought black people didn’t deserve respect. The Supreme Court ruling in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson that separate facilities for whites and blacks were constitutional, encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws that wiped out the efforts made by African Americans during the Reconstruction period. They were laws that setup segregation.

Railways, public waiting rooms, restaurants, apartments, theaters, and public parks were segregated. Separate schools, hospitals, and other public institutions, mostly of lower quality, were designed for blacks. Jim Crow laws have created racism in a whole other level. Because the laws and practices of Jim Crow varied from place to place, the scheme was confusing, and African Americans were careful to learn the racial ways of the locals to which they traveled to. African Americans could not always fight against Jim Crow because segregation could benefit some to the detriment of others. Still, the disadvantages of Jim Crow were far beyond the advantages, and beginning in the 1930s, African Americans took up a number of civil rights movements. Black colleges thrived, for example, but most segregated public elementary and secondary schools struggled with such low resources to prepare students for higher education.

Finally, protests or challenges to Jim Crow often proved futile, given law enforcement’s complicity in the structure. The Ku Klux Klan operated as a paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party in the South. The Klan, nightriders, red shirts, and other white terrorists threatened African Americans with personal attacks, school burnings, and lynching’s. African Americans rarely became policemen, sheriffs, or deputies before the late 1940s. White police officers were known to harass black people, disrupt black neighborhoods, and assault black women. Arrested for inflated charges, denied satisfactory counsel, and serving harsh sentences, African Americans were further disadvantaged in the courtroom. Rarely did they receive good counsel, nor could they serve on juries. When black lawyers would appear in the courtroom to argue cases, white judges and juries barely listened. All-white juries decided to be against black defendants, even in the most obvious cases of innocence, but rarely convicted white defendants, despite evidence of guilt. African Americans including the innocent suffered harsh punishments of extended jail time, and forced farm labor. Even women could be working on the roads and tracks across the South. Jim Crow entered a new phase after the Civil War with the development of the Black Codes.

At the end of the war, Confederates claimed southern legislatures and passed laws that restricted the freedom of freed people. The south gradually reinstated the racially discriminatory laws. The two main goals they wanted these laws to achieve were disenfranchisement and segregation. To take away the power that the blacks had gained, they began to prevent African Americans from voting. After the Civil War, the Black Codes were created. These laws were even worse than the Jim Crow laws. They tried to maintain something like slavery in the south even after the war. These laws made it hard for black people and their family to leave their current jobs. Then, be arrested for just about any reason. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Fourteenth Amendment tried to put an end to the Black Codes. African Americans began to organize, protest, and fight segregation and the Jim Crow laws in the 1900s. In 1954, the Supreme Court said that segregation of the schools was illegal in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case.

Later, protests such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Birmingham Campaign, and the March on Washington brought the issue of Jim Crow to national attention. The Jim Crow system was undergirded by the following beliefs or rationalizations. Blacks were inferior to whites in all important ways, including but not limited to intelligence, morality, and civilized behavior. Sexual relations between blacks and whites would produce a mixed race which would destroy America; treating blacks as equals would encourage interracial sexual unions. Any activity which suggested social equality encouraged interracial sexual relations. Violence must be used to keep blacks at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, but only if necessary.

When most people think of Jim Crow they think of laws which excluded blacks from public transport and facilities, juries, jobs, and neighborhoods. Plessy gave Jim Crow states a legal way to ignore their constitutional obligations to their black citizens. Under these laws any sexual interactions between black men and white women was illegal and within the Jim Crow definition of rape. In most states, blacks and whites could not marry by law. According to a Maryland law, all marriages between a white person and a black, or between a white person and a person of black descent are prohibited, and never accepted. Jim Crow laws segregated not only public venues but also restaurants, restrooms, hospitals, churches, libraries, schoolbooks, waiting rooms, housing, prisons, cemeteries, and asylums. Custom made signs saying“colored” and “white” or “white only” marked off the southern buildings, dividing public accommodations, residence, and death. Reporting equal, these circumstances usually were unequal. Laws regulated not only segregation but also social relations. Blacks and whites could not compete against each other, whether at checkers or college sports. A Mississippi law read, “any person guilty of printing, publishing or circulating matter urging or presenting arguments in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites and negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” Because the laws and practices of Jim Crow varied from place to place, the scheme was confusing.

In addition, different groups of African Americans, rural and urban, women and men, and people of varying classes, experienced Jim Crow in different ways. The Jim Crow laws have influenced many people from the 1800’s to the 1900’s.

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