Jim Crow laws

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Jim Crow laws were racial segregation state and local laws enacted after the Reconstruction period in Southern United States that continued in force until 1965 mandating de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern U.S. states (of the former Confederacy), starting in 1890 with a “separate but equal” status for African Americans.

Conditions for African Americans were consistently inferior and underfunded compared to those provided for white Americans.

This decision institutionalized a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.

Jim Crow laws mandated the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants and drinking fountains for whites and blacks.

The U.S. military was also segregated, as were federal workplaces, initiated in 1913 under President Woodrow Wilson, the first Southern president elected since 1856.

His administration practiced overt racial discrimination in hiring, requiring candidates to submit photos.

The origin of the phrase “Jim Crow” has often been attributed to “Jump Jim Crow”, a song-and-dance caricature of blacks performed by white actor Thomas D. Rice in blackface, which first surfaced in 1832 and was used to satirize Andrew Jackson’s populist policies.

In the 1870s, Democrats gradually regained power in the Southern legislatures, having used insurgent paramilitary groups, such as the White League and Red Shirts, to disrupt Republican organizing, run Republican officeholders out of town, and intimidate blacks to suppress their voting. Extensive voter fraud was also used.

Gubernatorial elections were close and had been disputed in Louisiana for years, with increasing violence against blacks during campaigns from 1868 onward.

In 1877, a national Democratic Party compromise to gain Southern support in the presidential election resulted in the government’s withdrawing the last of the federal troops from the South.

One might have expected the Southern states to have created a segregation system immediately after the war, but that did not happen.

In some states the legislatures imposed rigid separation, but only in certain areas; Texas, for example, required that every train have one car in which all people of colour had to sit.

The South had had no real system of public education prior to the Civil War, and as the postwar governments created public schools, those were as often as not segregated by race.

Nonetheless, New Orleans had fully integrated schools until 1877, and in North Carolina former slaves routinely sat on juries alongside whites.

In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, the court overturned key elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, thereby sanctioning the notion of “separate but equal” facilities and transportation for the races (though it did not use the term separate but equal).

Seven years later the court approved a Mississippi statute requiring segregation on intrastate carriers in Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Railway v. Mississippi (1890).

The laws proved very effective.

In Mississippi, fewer than 9,000 of the 147,000 voting-age African Americans were registered after 1890.

In Louisiana, where more than 130,000 black voters had been registered in 1896, the number had plummeted to 1,342 by 1904.