jim crow… did you know?


Jim Crow Era

After the Civil War, there was a period from about 1865 to 1877 where federal laws offered observable protection of civil rights for former slaves and free blacks; it wasn’t entirely awful to be an African American, even in the South. However, starting in the 1870s, as the Southern economy continued its decline, Democrats took over power in Southern legislatures and used intimidation tactics to suppress black voters. Tactics included violence against blacks and those tactics continued well into the 1900s. Lynchings were a common form of terrorism practiced against blacks to intimidate them. It is important to remember that the Democrats and Republicans of the late 1800s were very different parties from their current iterations. Republicans in the time of the Civil War and directly after were literally the party of Lincoln and anathema to the South. As white, Southern Democrats took over legislatures in the former Confederate states, they began passing more restrictive voter registration and electoral laws, as well as passing legislation to segregate blacks and whites.

It wasn’t enough just to separate out blacks – segregation was never about “separate but equal.” While the Supreme Court naively speculated in Plessy v. Ferguson that somehow mankind wouldn’t show its worst nature and that segregation could occur without one side being significantly disadvantaged despite all evidence to the contrary, we can look back in hindsight and see that the Court was either foolishly optimistic or suffering from the same racism that gripped the other arms of the government at the time. In practice, the services and facilities for blacks were consistently inferior, underfunded, and more inconvenient as compared to those offered to whites – or the services and facilities did not exist at all for blacks. And while segregation was literal law in the South, it was also practiced in the northern United States via housing patterns enforced by private covenants, bank lending practices, and job discrimination, including discriminatory labor union practices.

This kind of de facto segregation has lasted well into our own time.

The era of Jim Crow laws saw a dramatic reduction in the number of blacks registered to vote within the South. This time period brought about the Great Migration of blacks to northern and western cities like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence and spread all over the country, finding a significant popularity that has lingered to this day in the Midwest. It was claimed at the height of the second incarnation of the KKK that its membership exceeded 4 million people nationwide. The Klan didn’t shy away from using burning crosses and other intimidation tools to strike fear into their opponents, who included not just blacks, but also Catholics, Jews, and anyone who wasn’t a white Protestant.

This time period was not without its triumphs for blacks, even if they came at a cost or if they were smaller than one would have preferred. The NAACP was founded in 1909, in response to the continued practice of lynching and race riots in Springfield, Ill. From the 1920s through the 1930s in Harlem, New York, a cultural, social, and artistic movement took place that was later coined the Harlem Renaissance. Musicians like Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton, writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, it-girls like Josephine Baker, and philosophers like W.E.B. Du Bois all had a hand in the Harlem Renaissance and American culture as a whole is richer and better for it. 

Notable Supreme Court Cases:

  • The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873) – this series of three cases, which were consolidated into one issue, offered the first opinion from the Supreme Court on the 14th Amendment. The court chose to interpret the rights protected by the 14th Amendment as very narrow and this precedent would be followed for many years to come.
  • Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883) – in this set of five cases that were consolidated into one issue, a majority of the court held the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional against the lone famous dissent of Justice Harlan. The majority argued that Congress lacked authority to regulate private affairs under the 14th Amendment and that the 13th Amendment “merely abolishe[d] slavery”. Segregation in public accommodations would not be declared illegal after these cases until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) – this is the case which gave us the phrase “separate but equal” and upheld state racial segregation laws for public facilities. Justice Harlan again offered a lone dissent. These laws would remain in play until 1954.

Selected Library Resources:

Additional Resources:

library.law.howard.edu

history… January 14


1639 – Connecticut’s first constitution, the “Fundamental Orders,” was adopted.

1784 – The United States ratified a peace treaty with England ending the Revolutionary War.

1858 – French emperor Napoleon III escaped an attempt on his life.

1873 – John Hyatt’s 1869 invention ‘Celluloid’ was registered as a trademark.

1878 – Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone for Britain’s Queen Victoria.

1882 – The Myopia Hunt Club, in Winchester, MA, became the first country club in the United States.

1907 – An earthquake killed over 1,000 people in Kingston, Jamaica.

1939 – “Honolulu Bound” was heard on CBS radio for the first time.

1943 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to fly in an airplane while in office. He flew from Miami, FL, to French Morocco where he met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to discuss World War II.

1951 – The first National Football League Pro Bowl All-Star Game was played in Los Angeles, CA.

1952 – NBC’s “Today” show premiered.

1953 – Josip Broz Tito was elected president of Yugoslavia by the country’s Parliament.

1954 – Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married. The marriage only lasted nine months.

1954 – The Hudson Motor Car Company merged with Nash-Kelvinator. The new company was called the American Motors Corporation.

1963 – George C. Wallace was sworn in as governor of Alabama.

1969 – An explosion aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier Enterprise off Hawaii killed 25 crew members.

1972 – NBC-TV debuted “Sanford & Son.”

1973 – The Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII and became the first NFL team to go undefeated in a season.

1985 – Martina Navratilova won her 100th tournament. She joined Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert Lloyd as the only professional tennis players to win 100 tournaments.

1985 – Former Miss America, Phyllis George, joined Bill Kurtis as host of “The CBS Morning News”.

1986 – “Rambo: First Blood, Part II” arrived at video stores. It broke the record set by “Ghostbusters”, for first day orders. 435,000 copies of the video were sold.

1993 – Television talk show host David Letterman announced he was moving from NBC to CBS.

1993 – The British government pledged to introduce legislation to criminalize invasions of privacy by the press.

1994 – U.S. President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed Kremlin accords to stop aiming missiles at any nation and to dismantle the nuclear arsenal of Ukraine.

1996 – Jorge Sampaio was elected president of Portugal.

1996 – Juan Garcia Abrego was arrested by Mexican agents. The alleged drug lord was handed over to the FBI the next day.

1998 – Whitewater prosecutors questioned Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House for 10 minutes about the gathering of FBI background files on past Republican political appointees.

1998 – In Dallas, researchers report an enzyme that slows the aging process and cell death.

1999 – The impeachment trial of U.S. President Clinton began in Washington, DC.

1999 – The U.S. proposed the lifting of the U.N. ceilings on the sale of oil in Iraq. The restriction being that the money be used to buy medicine and food for the Iraqi people.

2000 – A U.N. tribunal sentenced five Bosnian Croats to up to 25 years for the 1993 massacre of over 100 Muslims in a Bosnian village.

2000 – The Dow Jones industrial average hit a new high when it closed at 11,722.98. Earlier in the session, the Dow had risen to 11,750.98. Both records stood until October 3, 2006.

2002 – NBC’s “Today” celebrated its 50th anniversary on television.

2002 – Actor Brad Renfro, 19, was arrested after being stopped on a traffic violation. He was charged with public intoxication and driving without a license.

2004 – In St. Louis, a Lewis and Clark Exhibition opened at the Missouri History Museum. The exhibit featured 500 rare and priceless objects used by the Corps of Discovery.

2005 – A probe, from the Cassini-Huygens mission, sent back pictures during and after landing on Saturn’s moon Titan. The mission was launched on October 15, 1997

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