By exploring the Jim Crow laws and their origin, one can also find out the many effects that the legislations had on American citizens, especially the African Americans who had just achieved their freedom from slavery following the end of the Civil War.
The aftermath of the Civil War was characterized by many white southern inhabitants quickly moving in to try and eliminate the new found freedom of the African American community. These south settlers wanted the African Americans to return to their previous state of slavery and they even came up with laws that were aimed at returning the blacks back to slavery. The laws appeared neutral and good at the surface but on a close examination, it was realized that the laws were actually meant to oppress the African American community.
One such individual who was behind the controversial legislations was Jim Crow. Between 1877 and mid 1960’s, Jim Crow laws were more than just a collection of legislations aimed at limiting the freedom of African American community, they also seemed to legitimize discrimination of individuals based on the color of their skins on just about everything.
The genesis of Jim Crow laws was after the American Civil War and it was not long before most southern states passed the anti-African American legislative laws. The Jim Crow laws also discriminated the blacks in terms of religion.
Among the most notable individuals who were deeply affected by the Jim Crow legislations was a man called1 Homer Plessey who was convicted in Louisiana for the offence of riding in a white person only railway carriage. When he tried to challenge the case by taking it to the Supreme Court, the court ruled against him on the basis of the segregated laws.
The Civil War may have ended slavery in many states in America but legislations such as those of Jim Crow still denied the African Americans their basic rights. The Civil War ended the vice slavery but many of the other vices were still affecting a large part of the southern society. To make things worse for the African Americans, they were even denied entry to courts and as such, they could not fight for their rights legally. They were only allowed access to the courts when they were being charged for criminal or civil offenses.
As a way of fighting back these forms of discriminations, the black community formed a union for its people of in 1950 called National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organization was formed to counter the various forms of discrimination directed towards blacks by the laws especially those applied in public transport.
One of the major successes that NAACP achieved took place in 1952 after a high court ruling that made the inter-state railway legislations against blacks unconstitutional. A similar ruling was made two years later this time illegalizing the discriminatory laws against blacks in the interstate busses. These rulings were not received well by some white individuals, especially those in the southern states who ignored them and continued with their discriminatory practices.
In fact, some southern states still upheld the unfair transport legislations that prohibited individuals of the two racial groups from sitting together in a public transport system. It was a common scenario to see whites sitting at the front of a bus while the African Americans were made to sit at the rear and only if no white person was standing. The laws required of an African American to stand up and let a white man who did not have a seat to sit on his or her seat.
The unfair laws against blacks led to several demonstrations, the most notable being the one of 1956 in Montgomery 2. The demonstration bus rides involved black and white volunteers who sat together in buses, segregated restaurants campaigning against the many forms of black discrimination.
As a result, these laws against the blacks in buses were lessened as there were large bus companies who feared boycotts that were becoming rampant. The CORE negotiated with the then US President Johnson in 1964 and they both agreed to pass the Civil Rights Act 3. This changed a number of issues for example, racial discrimination on public places for example theaters and cinemas, hotels and restaurants were made illegal.
There were several African American who rose against Jim Crow laws. One such person is a journalist Ida Wells (1862-1931) 4. A decade after the civil war, many black Americans were denied so many rights aside from racial discrimination for example, many blacks were murdered innocently just as Ida was for practicing their right to vote, given that it was illegal for African Americans to vote.
This in turn led to the entire southern states government nullifying any votes cast by a black person. Other effects of Jim Crow laws in the southern states are that no Black American was to marry or be married to any White Americans. The Jim Crow laws prohibited any intermarriage between them and if anyone was found guilty of that crime, they were punished by hefty fines in court of imprisonment.
Another effect of Jim Crow is the way the voting ticket was made. The white people running for power had white colored tickets while the black people running for power had colored tickets. As a result, the black votes were nullified and no black person could enter a congress office as only the white colored vote was allowed. The white people were the only ones allowed to enter congress offices. The most destructive effect of these laws is the impact on children.
The Jim Crows prevented any efforts to improve the black community. The government was completely allowed to neglect the needs of the black child including the right to attend school. The system favored white schools and left the black schools to decay away slowly by allocating meager, if any, resources to them. Education was only offered to the white child hence increasing illiteracy in black children.
Yet another factor that went against the blacks were the teachings in church which entailed some white ministers openly supporting the segregation laws by claiming that even God was in support of the segregation of laws 5..
The Jim Crow system was guided by several beliefs and rationalizations for example, the white people were superior to the black people in almost all important aspects. They also believed that the white man was more intellect, more morally upright and civilized in behavior. The white person was basically viewed as a human god on earth who the black person was supposed to worship.
The Jim Crow laws also led people to believe that if any white man had sexual relations with a black person, the offspring born would be an outcast who would not be accepted into any race whether white or black, and also labeled as a danger to society and to the US in general.
The legislations also made it illegal for African American men to greet a white skinned individual by a hand shake as this would imply that the two individuals were of the same social status. Moreover, the no-shaking-of-hands law also applied to white females as an African American man was not permitted to come very close to any white female let alone shake her hand in greeting.
The African American men who went against this legislation often found themselves being accused of rape. The black people were not allowed to eat together with the white people and if they did dine together, the whites were to be served first and a separation boundary set between the two racial groups.
The Jim Crow laws affected the black American community in more ways than one as shown in this article. This article has also shown the effects of the Jim Crow laws on the general black and white community. The laws mostly targeted the African Americans and favored the white skinned individuals but as shown by this article, not all whites were in support of the laws. Some even joined the blacks in their demonstrations against the segregation legislations.
This article has also shown the evidence that Jim Crow laws existed by exploring the origin of these laws and how they were applied. From this article, it can be observed that indeed the Jim Crow laws were unfair and sought to treat the African Americans as more of animals than humans
1. Glisson Susan (2006). The human tradition in the civil rights movement. South Carolina: Rowman & Little field.
2. Mary Hull, Gloria Blakely and Dale Evva Gelfand (2006). Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Leader. Alabama: Infobase Publishing.
3. Bernard Grofman (2000). Legacies of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Virginia: University of Virginia Press.
4. Frances Ruffin (2008). Rising Up from Slavery. South Carolina: Sterling Publishing Company press.
5. Joseph Washington (1978). Black religion and public policy: ethical and historical perspectives. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.