RACISM - Jim Crow laws

Jim Crow laws


Jim Crow was the racial system, which took place from the 1870’s till the mid-1960 primarily in the southern Border States. Jim Crow represented the legalization of anti-black racism. During the time of Jim Crow, African Americans were considered second class citizens and many Christian ministers and theologians said that whites were the chosen people, blacks were cursed to be servants and God supported racial segregation. Many believed that the blacks were inferior to whites both by intellect and by culture and that the whites were very superior to the blacks. Many thought that sexual relations between blacks and whites would produce a mixed race, which would destroy America. And last but not least, many believed that to keep the blacks at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, it was all right to use violence.

It was illegal to show blacks social equality. A black man was not allowed to shake hands with a white man because it would show social equality. A black man could not touch nor have relations with a white woman because this would be considered rape. A black man was not allowed to offer to light a white woman’s cigarette, because that would be a sign of intimacy. Blacks couldn’t show their love in public either, since that offended whites. If you should introduce a black and a white man to each other, you had to introduce the white man first, then the black man. Blacks had to refer to a white person as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Sir or Ma’am and it was illegal to call them by their first names. However, whites didn’t refer to blacks as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Sir or Ma’am; blacks were referred to by their first names.

The blacks were excluded from public transport, facilities, juries, jobs and neighborhoods, and public places were separated. There were separate water fountains, separate door entrances and exits, separate hospitals, separate prisons, separate public and private schools, separate churches and separate public restrooms, and in front of every one of these public places there was a sign indicating which race could use what. Mostly, the blacks’ facilities were very inferior to whites; they were older and not so well taken care of and in some cases, blacks didn’t have any facilities.

Many states began to build up laws of their own. In 1935 in Oklahoma, it was forbidden for blacks and whites to boat together, since this indicated social equality. In 1905 Georgia created separate parks for blacks and whites. In Alabama there had to be separate waiting rooms for blacks and whites on any passenger station. In South Carolina it was forbidden for a white person with custody over a white child to surrender the child permanently into custody, control, maintenance or support of a black person. And in Georgia it was forbidden to require that a female nurse should nurse in a room in a hospital were black men were present.

The blacks that didn’t follow the norms of Jim Crow, by for example drinking of a water fountain for whites, risked their homes, their jobs and even their lives.

It was accepted for whites to physically beat blacks without being punished and the blacks had very small chances against these assaults because the criminal justice system on the time of Jim Crow consisted of only white people. A lot of violence took place during the time of Jim Crow because this was the whites’ way of keeping the blacks “in their places”.

The most extreme forms of Jim Crow violence was lynching. Lynching was public murders carried out by mobs. We don’t know exactly how long lynching has occurred, but from 1882, where the first reliable data was collected and till 1968, where lynching was rare, there has been 4730 known lynchings. 3440 of these lynching victims were black men and women. Most victims of lynching was hanged or shot, but some were burned at the stake, castrated or beaten with clubs.

The lynchings were, according to the whites, based on crimes, but about one-third of all the victims were falsely accused. Most blacks were lynched for demanding civil rights or violating the Jim Crow norms.

An even more extreme sort of lynching is the so-called “riots”. Sometimes the mobs would, after the lynching, go into black communities and destroy more lives and property. Their main goal was to drive out the blacks by death or expulsion, and maintain white supremacy. 

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