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Essay/Term paper: Jim crow laws

Essay, term paper, research paper:  American History

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 Jim Crow Laws



The name for the Jim Crow Laws comes from a character in a Minstrel Show. The

Minstrel Show was one of the first forms of American entertainment, which started in 1843.

They were performed by successors of black song and dance routine actors. The first Minstrel

Show was started by a group of four men from Virginia, who all painted their faces black and

performed a small song and dance skit in a small theater in New York City. Thomas Dartmouth

Rice, a white actor, performed the Jim Crow Minstrel Show. Rice was inspired by an old black

man who sang and danced in Louisville, Kentucky (Clay, 1). The skit ended in the same chorus

as the old black mans song which was "Wheel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb"ry time I

wheel about I jump Jim Crow." Rice"s song and dance got him from Louisville to Cincinnati to

Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and then to New York City in 1832. Finally, Rice performed

throughout Europe, going to London and Dublin, where the Irish especially liked Rice"s

performance (http://www.sims.berkely.edu/courses/is182/paint167.html).

In the north, slavery was just about non existent, so blacks could be seen free in a lot of

cities in the north. In some cities even, blacks and whites lived together without a problem so

segregation was not seen completely throughout America. Before 1890, segregation was not

seen in most of the south, which was where 80 percent of the black population lived (Massey, 17-

20).

Segregation actually started in the north, but when it moved into the south, it became

much worse (Woodward, 17). It was thought that segregation came along with slavery, but there

were more reasons, like pure racism. Cities had ghettos where all of the blacks lived in a

community, away from the whites. After slavery ended, the north did treat the blacks with more

respect, but not much more. In the north, slaves could not be separated from their families and

they could not be legally forced to work. Even though the blacks in the north were not slaves

anymore, they were still treated poorly in some cases. Towards the end of the Civil War, the

north was really showing their racism (Woodward, 21). Most hotels, motels and restaurants

would not let blacks inside, so shortly after the Civil Rights Act of 1875, the blacks tested their

rights on all sorts of public utilities. They did not, however, take advantage of these rights so

they would be assured to keep them. The south still treated blacks with disrespect. Even though

blacks could be found in most northern cities, they rarely made up much more than 30 percent of

the population of that area, so blacks were still mostly living in the south, where they were still

being treated poorly (Massey, 20).

Even after slavery ended, whites, with the Jim Crow Laws, were still separating

themselves from blacks with segregation. Jim Crow Laws were passed by many southern states

in the late nineteenth century. The laws stayed in effect from 1865-1950. The Jim Crow Laws

originated from a Minstrel Show character called Jim Crow, performed by Thomas D. Rice. The

Jim Crow movement turned out to be the biggest influence that led to the immobilization of the

American black population. The laws were basically just a technique to get around the basic

rights of blacks. It created, once again, a divisional racial system in the south. Cities now

needed new and different systems to control the blacks and whites. One part of the Jim Crow

Laws allowed the government to fully neglect the educational needs of black children, in fact, the

laws had the most effect on the education of black children. The schooling system made black

and white schools greatly unequal, and cultivated the educational needs of white children. Many

black children were left uneducated due to these laws. The condition of black schools were over

crowded in run down buildings. There were enough schools for whites so they did not have this

problem. The teachers in black schools were poorly trained and had to work with the lack of

supplies they had, but white teachers were well trained and got money for supplies from the

government. Many black families were forced to move north to have hope of their children

being educated. In the north, Jim Crow Laws were not as present and Massachusetts ended some

of the laws before the Civil War ended. The term "Jim Crow" was used so often it became an

adjective in the American language in 1838. The term is no longer used in the language though

(Woodward, 7).

In 1889, the Interstate Commerce Commission made railroads provide equal fairness to

both races. The same accommodations, however, were not required for blacks and whites. By

1891, seven southern states passed laws that stated "separate but equal" railroad transportation.

They wanted blacks and whites to ride in the same trains with the same treatment but they

wanted them to be in separate railcars. The case was known as Plessy versus Ferguson. The

ruling of this case was not equal in fact and it allowed the usage of more Jim Crow Laws. Some

railroads made blacks ride in second class even if they paid to ride in first class. Due to the

ruling of the case of Plessy versus Ferguson, segregation laws soon made blacks use different

water fountains, restaurants, recreational facilities and other things, than the whites

(http://www.usbol.com/ctjournal/JCrow1.html).

The Reconstruction Years was a time period after the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was

declared unconstitutional, where whites started treating blacks with more respect and equality.

During this time, blacks and whites still did not interact with each other much but it was more

often than before. They were now in direct competition with each other in the city. Large black

communities started springing up around America during this time. These new communities

created a challenge to the people that lived in southern states, and they had trouble controlling

them, unlike the ease they had controlling more rural blacks. Blacks and whites now used the

same utilities and facilities. Whites could no longer have their own restaurants hotels or water

fountains. Before these acts, blacks were not allowed to vote. Massachusetts, New Hampshire,

Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island let blacks vote in 1860. Only six percent of the black

population lived in states that allowed them to vote because politicians believed blacks could not

deal with any political issues. After more blacks were allowed to vote, white politicians now

realized that they needed black support.

If the Jim Crow Laws were never passed, the black population would have grown more

freely faster and with much less hassle than they had to go through. The Jim Crow Laws should

not have been passed because they only delayed the freedom of blacks and hurt our nations

image. 

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