In the American History, Jim Crow is a term that been used to refer to the transition that followed the period of reconstruction to the late 1960s (Carson, 2003). During this era of Jim Crow, the Black Codes dominated the transition. The Black Codes is a term that was used to refer to the informal rules the colonial masters used to ensure that black people would work as slaves in the plantations (Carson, 2003). This period of Jim Crow came as America history’s most famous period. It is a period that was characterized by racial segregation of the Blacks that lived in American coupled with inhuman segregation.
Segregation was witnessed in major areas such as education, accommodation, transport, and even in health. These blacks would also occasionally be confronted, beaten up, and even lynched. The famous blacks lynching was perceived to be a social control approach that was used as an excuse to ensure that these blacks were executed. Funny enough, lynching even emerged to be a new form of entertainment whereby many whites would gather, laugh, mock, and enjoy as the ‘valueless’ blacks struggled painfully to a brutal death (Parker, 2007). To ensure that these days were transformed, something had to be done by the black population. Various methods and strategies are remembered up to today to have been used by the blacks to ensure that Jim Crow laws were challenged. In this essay, the main focus is to have an in-depth discussion of the forms and strategies that were used by the African-Americans to ensure that these laws were challenged.
Jim Crow Era
Jim Crow can be traced back to a song performed by Daddy Rice (Dagbovie, 2007). This performer was a white entertainer of a ministerial show that was staged in the early 1930s. As he did this performance, Rice ensured that his face was covered with charcoal to enhance a black resemblance. The singer then danced and sang to the tune in a routine that portrayed the silliness in a black person. By the early 1850s, the character of Jim Crow had grown to be one of the black inferiority stereotypical images in the popular culture of the nation. This character had grown to be a standard act in the daily minstrel shows. However, it still remains unclear how it became a synonymous term with the cruel disfranchisement and segregation of the black Americans in the late nineteenth century. However, it is clear that by the 1900, this term had grown to be identified with the actions and laws of the racists. Through these laws, the African-Americans were deprived of the civil rights by definition of the blacks as lesser in comparison to the whites.
The segregation emergence can be traced back to the South. This trend is noted to have started immediately after the emergence of the civil war. During this period, the blacks that had been formerly segregated acted fast in the effort to ensure establishment of their own schools and churches that were different from those that were used by the whites (Carson, 2003). Simultaneously, there was an effort by most of the states in the south to limit the physical and economic freedom that was formerly associated with enslavement. This was enhanced by adoption of the famous laws that are referred to as the Black Codes (Bates, 2001). However, these early attempts against discrimination and segregation imposed by the whites barely lasted for long period. During the congressional reconstruction period, (this period continued from 1867 to 1877), all such acts were declared by the federal government to be illegal. These acts were also denounced as discrimination acts against the Black Americans. In addition, the approval of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments abridged any ability of the blacks to be deprived of their civil rights by the whites (Bates, 2001).
Therefore as a result, it was possible for the African-Americans to inject major progress that resulted in civil rights laws passage and establishment of own institutions, followed by election of officials that headed the public office. Responding to this major step by the blacks, an illegal and viscous war was launched by the Southern whites against the blacks that lived around the same region. This movement was also against the fellow whites who were allies to the Republican. To enhance their success, secret organizations were used which included the Ku Klux Klan (Nahal & Lopez, 2007). This war resulted in the death of thousand African-Americans coupled with brutalization and bloody years of terrorization. Various attempts were made by the Federal Government at ending this period of terror. In this effort, troupes were brought in coupled with holding of investigations although these efforts rarely extinguished the “white flame” that was designed to fully destroy the black existence in the United States.
In the 1877 election campaign, the compromise by Rutherford Hayes against the blacks resulted in his election to presidency. In return, Rutherford Hayes of Republican Party was elected as a result of promising to put an end to the reconstruction in support of the blacks. All the efforts of ensuring protecting the civil rights of the Southern blacks were hence abandoned. However before long, a terror reign exploded in the South. What followed in the 1880 reign was characterized by lynching of the mob, convict prison farm system together with chain gangs. This was worsened by the horrible sharecropping debt debilitating peonage, legal color line imposition together with various laws that resulted in blacks’ discrimination.
In some states in the South, there was a legal move towards imposition of segregation in the public transport means. With these steps, the blacks could only be allowed to sit in special cars that had been reserved for them (the Jim Crow car) regardless of the class of ticked that they had purchased (Bates, 2001). In some states, the famous miscegenation laws were passed therefore banning of the interracial marriages. According to various historians’ opinions, these bans were perceived to be laws of ‘ultimate segregation’ (Bates, 2001). They made a clear announcement of the inferiority of the blacks to the whites. Any mingling between the two races was perceived to threaten the continuity of the highly valued white race.
The movement against Jim Crow
With unending efforts that progressed from one day to the other, Jim Crow was resisted by various blacks especially from the south. Through this effort, they hoped for the day that they would fully be able to trigger an escape from the Jim Crow law-controlled South. Within the period of 1880s and 1890s, many African Americans had already escaped for Oklahoma and Kansas. Kansas Exodus remains to be one of the famous names of this movement. This all-black state has been upheld even in the today’s America. In other cases, many African-Americans moved to the Southern cities and towns within this period (Bates, 2001). There were other instances whereby the blacks from the South made effort at ensuring establishment of their all-black towns. A good example of such towns is Mound Bayou which was established in Mississippi delta. This was in an effort aimed at fully enhancing their isolation from the cruel whites while at the same time ensuring that they stayed at their birth states. However, various black migrants permanently fled from the South (Fauntry, 2007). This trend continued to the period of the great depression when after ending the black sharecroppers, thousands of the blacks migrated to join their friends in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh (Dagbovie, 2007).
In the cities, an interactive effort of the National Urban League and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ensured that the blacks were integrated into the mainstream of the American life economy (Nahal & Lopez, 2007). In addition, there was another organization that was referred to as the Civil Rights Movement. This movement is known to be one of the largest movements that the blacks ever initiated in the late 1950s (Nahal & Lopez, 2007). Prior to the formation of this movement, universal Negro Improvement Association had been formed. This movement however appeared to be less troubled by integration and the main concern was economic development. Marcus Garvey; a Booker T. Washington admirer and founder of the INIA encouraged the autonomy and self-help among the blacks. Through this strategy, integration would be overcome. In addition, Marcus Garvey also founded a movement that was aimed at sending the blacks to Africa. In this movement, thousands of African-Americans were interested, including the African Americans that had moved to Kansas and Oklahoma within the period of 1880 and 1900 (Nahal & Lopez, 2007).
The strong urge of the blacks to flee from the south and resistance against the political and legal segregation mainly resulted from the experience of the African-American solders that had participated in the First World War. Jim Crow was especially found to be grueling by some young black soldiers (Parker, 2009). This resulted in many of these solders joining their relatives and neighbors that had progressed to the cities in the north before and during the war. After the Second World War, a similar pattern emerged in a period that saw more than a million African-Americans depart from the South for the cities in the East and West coast (Nahal & Lopez, 2007).
The most important step was made by the black Americans in the year 1940 when they denounced the military segregation and the challenge of accessing the war industries government jobs. One of the leading figures in the African-Americans during this period was Randolph (Nahal & Lopez, 2007). This leader made some threats that were aimed at leading more than half million blacks to a non-violent demonstration in the USA capital; Washington DC. This move was aimed at ensuring that employments would be secured in the war industry. This move challenged the then president Franklin Roosevelt who announced opening the defense industry to equal chances between the blacks and whites (Parker, 2009). This move received a close monitoring by the agency of Fair Employment Practices (Parker, 2009). The FDRs support to the labor and various programs that yielded benefits resulted in many blacks being attracted to the Democratic Party within the period of 1930 to the early 1950s. This move by Roosevelt was seen to be a positive step towards advocating for the civil rights and aiding of the blacks that for a long period had been impoverished. This political party switch was a representation of a monumental shift from Lincoln party to FDR. It was also this political party switch that set the pace for challenge in the 1950s that was geared against Jim Crow (Parker, 2009).
As a result of the war against discrimination, the black leaders were able to make major progress after their inclusion in the Republican Party (Carson, 2003). The rise of Wright Cuney to the chairman post was perceived to be one of the major moves in the Texas Republican Party. This was a move that discomforted many white voters who reacted by leaving the party to join the Democrats. During the Republican Convention in the Texas during the year 1888, the term Lily-White was coined by Cuney to illustrate the efforts that were being made by the conservatives to ensure ousting of the blacks from the party leadership position. This followed with riots that were incited to split the party. With well-organized efforts, the blacks were eliminated from the movement and with time they had lost any influence in the republican platform and party (Carson, 2003).
The transition to the freedom
A transition from the civil rights segregation was ushered in by the new black Americans militancy. Through the effort of NAACP, numerous legal battles emerged from the period of early 1920s onwards. This move triggered investigation to the lynching. It was also a move that resulted to a major challenge against the discrimination in the state institutions facilities. As a result, a legal precedent body was established in the year 1950s by the courts. Earlier in the year 1944, the white primary was struck down by the Supreme Court. White primary had been a measure through which the blacks were excluded from the Democratic Party primaries in the South (Parker, 2009). This move resulted in a major increase in the number of black American registered voters from the South by more than a million within a period of one decade (from 1940 to 1950).
This unbelievably successful challenge against the Jim Crow came as a coincident with the non-white nation’s decolonization that was taking place throughout the world. Therefore it is through this trend that Martin Luther King who was by then the leader of the civil rights movement drew his famous spurs from the non-violent approaches that had earlier been used by Mahatma Gandhi; the front-runner that lead India through independence from the Great Britain (Nahal & Lopez, 2007).
With the approval of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act that were enhanced after years of racial discrimination, the America was finally able to end the famous disfranchisement and legalized segregation that had dominated its history for a more than one century. From this essay, it is apparent that the trend to victory was not one easy journey. It was a war that was fought fearlessly; a war through which the prevalence of justice was finally witnessed. Currently, the historic meaning behind Jim Crow is so dead that an average student in college would hardly realize its significance. However many years after its death, there still remains the feeling of superiority, racial discrimination and segregation legacy in the hearts of many Americans. This behavior has mainly been portrayed through actions. With the recent emergence of riots in main cities, there is a clear indication that integration and voting rights is only the beginning of establishing the solution to the problems that faces the black race in America.
Bates, B. (2001). Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1929–1945. 1 (5); 24-56.
Carson, C. (2003). Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism 1941–1963 and Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism. New York: Library of America.
Dagbovie, P. (2007). “Exploring a Century of Historical Scholarship on Booker T. Washington,” Journal of African American History, Spring. 92, 239–264.
Fauntroy, K. (2007). Republicans and the Black vote. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 43.
Nahal, A. & Lopez D. (2008). “African American Women and the Niagara Movement, 1905-1909,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, 32, 65–85.
Parker, C. (2009). When Politics Becomes Protest: Black Veterans and Political Activism in the Postwar South. Journal of Politics, 71, 113–31.