The Effects of Jim Crow Laws in the South

Jim Crow laws are any of the laws that enforced racial segregation in the South between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950s (Urofsky w last source on packet). They were created after freedom was granted to slaves and provided regulations on how to handle the newly freed black population. Jim Crow laws drastically affected the South socially, geographically, and economically.

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Because the South had such a high percentage of colored people during the Jim Crow era, the Jim Crow laws created a significant social effect. Before Americans saw a need for Jim Crow, most colored people were slaves. However, when slaves were freed, the government created these laws to properly deal with the freed colored people. Prior to the Civil War the inferior status of slaves had made it unnecessary to pass laws segregating them from white people (Urofsky with britannica academic). Once Jim Crow laws were passed, it simply made discriminatory behavior that had already been taking placed toward colored people legal.

Joseph Holloway recalled a horrifying scene he witnessed as a child on a trip to Louisiana. He said, It was then that we heard them shouting, Kill the nigger.’ We could see a person on fire but still alive and screaming in the middle of the street tied to a big wheel. We could smell the stench of his burning human flesh (13 media ). Previous to Jim Crow laws, the color line was drawn in the attitudes and habits of its people…(McMillen 1 Black Mississippians in the age of Jim Crow). However, when the color line became a legal matter through Jim Crow laws, cold-blooded murders became more open. Accounts such as Holloway’s became more common.

The social divide between the black and white population grew tremendously due to Jim Crow laws. The social injustices caused the black population in the South to rebel and protest. Their persistence influenced white people’s perspectives. The Jim Crow’ Car article in The Daily Register states, In [Mr. Justice Harlan’s] view of the case no power in the land had the right to regulate the enjoyment of civil rights upon the basis of race. This social stance was new among whites and began to spread to the South, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Jim Crow laws may have made social injustices legal, but they also fueled the fire for the lasting social victory of equal rights for all.

The severity of the Jim Crow laws caused geographic migrations that greatly affected the South. Isabel Wilkerson, whose parents were part of the Great Migration from the South to the North, describes some of the difficulties of living in the South:

There were colored and white waiting rooms everywhere, from doctors offices to the bus stations. …But there were actually colored windows at the post office in Pensacola, Fla. And there were white and colored telephone booths in Oklahoma. There were separate windows were white people and black people would go to get their license plates in Mississippi. And there were even separate tellers to make your deposits at the First National Bank in Atlanta. It was illegal for black people and white people to play checkers together in Birmingham. And there were even black and white Bibles to swear to tell the truth on in many parts of the South.

The South blew Jim Crow laws out of proportion, causing life for blacks to be nearly unbearable.

According to the Library of Congress, When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed less than 8 percent of the African-American population lived in the Northeast or Midwest. Even by 1900, approximately 90 percent of all African- Americans still resided in the South. However, as time progressed and the Jim Crow laws became more strict, the black population became desperate for an escape to freedom.

The American Economic Review conducted a study that showed that nearly 6,000,000 African-Americans left the South from 1910-1970 (nbc). This drastic drop in population size allowed the Southerners to spread out even more and focus on agriculture. The South experienced major geographical changes due to the Jim Crow laws.

Jim Crow laws caused an economic change in the South. The Southern economy was primarily based on agriculture and depended on the hard work of slaves. As many blacks sought jobs other than the harsh environments of farming, they were met with great opposition. According to inequality.org, Too many black people [couldn’t] find living-wage jobs, and a lot of it [was] due to racism. A recent study found that job applicants were about 50 percent more likely to be called back if they had white names. A hiring analysis study found that white job applicants with criminal records were called back more often than blacks without criminal records.

Rather than seeking new jobs, many blacks left the South completely during the Great Migration. The Southern economy relied on sharecropping and tenant farmers, jobs mostly performed by the black population, but the South experienced a shortage of workers in these areas. These factors led to the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression, which only made matters worse:

Hundreds of thousands of sharecroppers left the land for the cities, leaving behind abandoned fields and homes. Even “Negro jobs” jobs traditionally held by blacks, such as busboys, elevator operators, garbage men, porters, maids, and cooks were sought by desperate unemployed whites. 13 media.

After experiencing the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression, Americans realized the malignant effect the Jim Crow laws had caused on their economy. Thirteen Media writes, For the first time since Reconstruction, the federal government actively supported blacks and made a concerted effort to incorporate them into the mainstream of American life. With the support of President Roosevelt, the economy slowly began to improve as the Southern mindset began to change. In 1954, the Brown versus Board of Education case was ruled in favor of the black population. This was the beginning of the slow ending of the Jim Crow laws. Although Jim Crow laws initially caused a negative effect on the Southern economy, they also improved the economy.

The Jim Crow laws had social, geographical, and economical effects on the South. Although they created a social divide, Jim Crow laws motivated the black population to achieve equality. Jim Crow laws made living in the South unbearable for blacks causing them to flee in the Great Migration, thus changing the geography by population. The Jim Crow laws led to the Great Depression which hurt the Southern economy. However, this hurt economy opened the eyes of Americans and led to the overturning of the Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow laws forever changed the South.

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The Effects of Jim Crow Laws in the South. (2019, Nov 15). Retrieved November 28, 2022 , from
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