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Jim Crow Laws: Origin, History, Facts, And Photos That show how Life Was Under the Ruthless Racial Segregation Laws

Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statues passed between 1876 and 1965, that legalized racial segregation. The name ‘Jim Crow’ was taken from a song and dance routine called Jump Jim Crow which was performed by white actors in blackface at minstrel shows. These laws mandated racial segregation in all facilities, including educational institutes, public transports, hotels and restaurants, and the voting systems. The most Southern States passed these racial laws, while the Northern States enforced through social custom.

Origin of Jim Crow laws

The origin of Jim Crow laws dates back to 1865 when the civil the American Civil War was ended, and several groups in the Southern States thwarted the integration of blacks into the political system. The 13 Amendment abolished slavery, but the Black Codes were imposed which restricted the black people in a political and social framework. These laws took the voting rights away and the legal system also introduced new hardships for African-Americans. The Confederate soldiers who were law enforcement officers and judges made it difficult for Blacks to win the cases in the courts. Black typically received longer sentences than their white counterparts and they were treated as enslaved people in the prison. Under the Andrew Johnson presidency, blacks were regularly attacked and their schools were vandalized and destroyed. Families were attacked and forced off their land all across the South. The most ruthless example of this racial discrimination was the Ku Klux Klan, a private club for Confederate veterans which grew into a secret society that attached the black communities across the South.

In the 1880s, when the Black population moved to big cities in the South, white city dwellers demanded more laws to limit the opportunist for African Americans. Jim Crow laws soon spread around the country with even more force than previously. The Conservative white Southern Democrats exploited the reconstruction era and the also opposed all the Civil Rights bill.

Examples of Jim Crow Laws

The Jim Crow laws affected every aspect of the Black population and limited the role of black people in the United States.

  • Theaters, buses, waiting rooms, restrooms, train stations water fountains, cemeteries, and even hospitals were segregated.
  • Public Parks were forbidden to African Americans.
  • Several laws forbade African Americans from living in white neighborhoods.
  • Black people could not shake hands with whites because it implied being socially equal.
  • Blacks and whites were not supposed to eat together, the hotels and restaurants were also segregated. Whites were served first in hotels.
  • The relationship and marriage between blacks and white were strictly prohibited. Under no circumstance was a black male to offer to light the cigarette of a white female, because that gesture would imply intimacy.
  • Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because these activities offended whites.
  • Whites should not use respect when referring to blacks, for example, Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma’am. Instead, blacks were called by their first names. Blacks were confined to use courtesy titles when referring to whites.
  • Some states required separate textbooks for Black and white students.
  • In Atlanta, African Americans in court were given a different Bible from white people to swear on.
  • Blacks were limited and even banned from voting by using poll taxes, literacy tests, and mental examinations that were rigged against blacks and the poor.

Struggles against the Jim Crow laws

Many African Americans stepped forward against the oppressive Jim Crow laws. Memphis teacher Ida B. Wells became an activist against the segregation laws. She advocated for the arming of Black citizens. Protested and wrote against the black lynching’s and published her findings. A mob destroyed her newspaper and threatened her with death, forcing her to move to the North, where she continued her efforts against Jim Crow laws and lynching.

Charlotte Hawkins was a school teacher for the American Missionary Association. After funding was withdrawn from the school, Brown began fundraising to start her own school. She became the first black woman to create a school for black communities, named the Palmer Memorial Institute.

Isaiah Montgomery created the African American-only town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, in 1887. He recruited other former enslaved people to settle in the wilderness with him and built a library, hospital, bank, and a sawmill.

Jim Crow Laws in the 20th Century

As the 20th century began, Jim Crow laws flourished. The lynching of black people and race riots increased. In 1919, more than 25 race riots against the black communities took place, across the country. The Great Migration of the 1920s saw a significant migration of educated Black people out of the South. Tulsa Massacre was started from an accusation that was proved wrong later, took more than 38 lives. The Great Depression and World War II also depend on segregation.

The End of Jim Crow laws

Several civil rights movements were started across the country in the post-World War II era. In 1948 President Harry Truman ordered integration in the military. The supreme court declared educational segregation as unconstitutional in 1954. Martin Luther King started the civil rights movement with other leaders such as A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, ended discrimination in renting and selling homes, followed.

Here below are some historical photos that offer a glimpse into American society under the Jim Crow laws.

#2 David Isom, 19, broke the color line in one of this city’s segregated public pools on June 8, 1958, which resulted in officials closing the facility.

#3 Johnny Gray, 15, punches a white student during a scuffle in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 16, 1958.

Johnny Gray, 15, punches a white student during a scuffle in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 16, 1958.

Johnny and his sister, Mary (standing behind him), were en route to their segregated school when the two white boys in the photo ordered them to get off the sidewalk.

#5 African American child using a water fountain, the tree next to the fountain has a sign attached that reads ‘Colored’ in order to enforce Jim Crow laws

African American child using a water fountain, the tree next to the fountain has a sign attached that reads 'Colored' in order to enforce Jim Crow laws

The water fountain is part of the county courthouse property, Halifax, North Carolina, 1938.

#6 Shack-like Black Jeweler shop next to a small food store covered with beverage ads in a slum section of the city of Atlanta, 1938.

#7 Segregated Tuberculosis Treatment.

Segregated Tuberculosis Treatment.

Tuberculosis draws no color line. Of the 596 deaths attributed to tuberculosis in Washington in 1937, the Negro population contributed 391 to the white's 205. Negro physicians and nurses fight hand in hand with with health workers to stop the ravages of this disease.

#8 An African-American climbing up the stairs to the segregated section of a cinema in Belzoni, Mississippi, 1939.

#10 Hotel Clark with Sign “The Best Service for Colored Only”, Beale Street Lined with Pawn Shops and Secondhand Clothing Stores, Memphis, 1939.

#11 Passengers under a sign that reads ‘Colored Waiting Room’ at a bus station (at 309 North Magnum Street), Durham, 1940.

#13 African-American children in a segregated swimming pool at Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, Maryland, July 4, 1940.

#16 A drinking fountain, labeled ‘White,’ at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, 1943.

#17 Group of mostly African Americans attending the Parkway Community House Forum re wartime rally to beat Hitler and Jim Crow laws, 1944.

#18 A moving billboard in a parade in Detroit, sponsored by the NAACP, congratulates the American Federation of Labor’s stand against race discrimination, 1944.

#19 African-American men wearing tuxedos carry a coffin and a “Here Lies Jim Crow” sign down the middle of a street as a demonstration against “Jim Crow” segregation laws, 1944.

#20 Picketers outside Democratic National Covention, July 12, demanding equal rights for Negoes and Anti-Jim Crow plank in the Party platform.

#21 Members of the Campaign to Resist Military Segregation picket registration for America’s postwar draft at Haaron High School, New York City, 30th August 1948.

Members of the Campaign to Resist Military Segregation picket registration for America's postwar draft at Haaron High School, New York City, 30th August 1948.

They are protesting against the 'Jim Crow' draft, a reference to the so-called Jim Crow Laws enforcing racial segregation.

#24 A teacher instructs a segregated class of black students at a poorly funded, one-room school in the backwoods of Georgia in 1941.

#25 White tenants seeking to prevent black Americans from moving into the Sojourner Truth Homes, a federal governmental housing project, erected this sign in Detroit in 1942.

#26 Dr. and Mrs. Charles N. Atkins of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and their sons, Edmond, 10, and Charles, 3, pause for a glance at the Santa Fe Depot segregation sign on Nov. 25, 1955.

#27 US and Confederate flags fly from a car parked on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill in Nashville, where Gov. Frank Clement met with a delegation of pro-segregationists on Jan. 24, 1956.

US and Confederate flags fly from a car parked on Tennessee's Capitol Hill in Nashville, where Gov. Frank Clement met with a delegation of pro-segregationists on Jan. 24, 1956.

Clement turned down a bid to lead a fight for continued racial segregation, saying he did not plan to interfere with local authorities and their decisions on such matters.

#28 Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by a police officer in Montgomery, Alabama, on Feb. 22, 1956, two months after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955.

Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by a police officer in Montgomery, Alabama, on Feb. 22, 1956, two months after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955.

She was arrested with several others who violated segregation laws. Parks' refusal to give up her seat led to a boycott of buses in December 1955, a tactic organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

#29 From left: Buddy Trammell, Max Stiles, and Tommy Sanders, students at Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, picket their school when it becomes the first state-supported school to integrate, on Aug. 27, 1956.

#30 Black citizens sit in the rear of the bus in compliance with South Carolina segregation law in April 1956.

#31 Roy Lee Howlett, 14, stands beside a car painted with signs protesting the desegregation of Mansfield High School in Dallas on Aug. 31, 1956.

#32 An unruly mob protesting integration of the Clinton High School attacks a car full of black people who just happened to be passing through on Aug. 31, 1956.

#33 A group of students known as the Little Rock Nine form a study group after being prevented from entering Little Rock’s newly integrated Central High School on Sept. 13, 1957.

#34 A white student slugs an effigy of a hanging black student outside Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Oct. 3, 1957, as nearly 75 students of the school walked out to protest integration.

#35 Police examine the wreckage of the newly desegregated Hattie Cotton grammar school, which was dynamited in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sept. 10, 1957.

Police examine the wreckage of the newly desegregated Hattie Cotton grammar school, which was dynamited in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sept. 10, 1957.

The entire east wall and four classrooms were demolished. The attack occurred after a single six-year-old black child was admitted at this school to the first grade.

#36 Demonstrators staging a sit-in at a drugstore lunch counter in Arlington, Virginia, are picketed by members of the American Nazi Party in 1960.

#37 Women and teenagers at William Franz Elementary School yell at police officers during a protest against the desegregation of the school.

Women and teenagers at William Franz Elementary School yell at police officers during a protest against the desegregation of the school.

As three black youngsters attended classes at the school for the second day on Nov. 15, 1960. The sign on the far right reads: "All I Want for Christmas Is a Clean White School."

#38 Edward R. Fields and James Murray, hang an effigy of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the party’s headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 6, 1963.

Edward R. Fields and James Murray, hang an effigy of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the party's headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 6, 1963.

They were members of the National States Rights Party, Counter-protesting against civil rights demonstrations.

#39 Demonstrators outside of West End High School in Birmingham, Alabama, sing songs and cheer during an anti-desegregation protest on Sept. 10, 1963.

#40 A man waves a Confederate flag before a group of demonstrators in front of an Indianapolis hotel where then-Gov. George Wallace of Alabama was staying on April 14, 1964.

#41 A line of African Americans hailing from states across the USA march to protest segregation. Ca. 1950.

#42 A group of Cuban baseball players from the Negro League Red Sox in the dugout together during a home game, Memphis, Tennessee, circa 1951.

A group of Cuban baseball players from the Negro League Red Sox in the dugout together during a home game, Memphis, Tennessee, circa 1951.

Among the players are Carlos Colas, far left, and Pedro Formental, far right.

#45 African-American student Linda Brown (first desk in second row from right) sits with her classmates at the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas, 1953.

African-American student Linda Brown (first desk in second row from right) sits with her classmates at the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas, 1953.

When her enrollment at a 'whites-only' school was blocked, her family initiated the landmark Civil Rights lawsuit 'Brown V. Board of Education,' which led to the beginning of integration in the US education system.

#47 African American children arriving for class at the segregated Buchanan Elementary School, 1953.

#49 Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie sit on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1954.

Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie sit on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1954.

Nettie explains to her daughter the meaning of the high court's ruling in the Brown Vs. Board of Education case that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

#50 Attorneys who argued the case against segregation stand together smiling in front of the U. S. Supreme Court Building, 1954.

Attorneys who argued the case against segregation stand together smiling in front of the U. S. Supreme Court Building, 1954.

After the High Tribunal ruled that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. Left to right are George E. C. Hayes, of Washington, DC; Thurgood Marshall, Special Counsel for the NAACP; and James Nabrit, Jr., Professor and Attorney at Law at Howard University in Washington.

#54 Autherine Lucy, first African American to enter the University of Alabama.

Autherine Lucy, first African American to enter the University of Alabama.

Her challenge to school segregation was met with violence from white supremacists.

#55 A group of African Americans get into an automoboile to car pool during the Montgomery bus boycott, Montgomery, Alabama, February 1956.

#56 An angry white mob surrounds a street car with African American passengers stopped due to the race riots in Detroit.

An angry white mob surrounds a street car with African American passengers stopped due to the race riots in Detroit.

The mob assaults an African American man who attempts to leave the streetcar near the front of the trolley.

#59 Ten young men in costume and blackface, members of a minstrel troupe, pose with three others in street clothes,1910.

#60 National Guardsmen, called in by Mayor ‘Big Bill’ Thompson after three days of rioting, question an African American man in Chicago, 1919.

#62 Hundreds of demonstrators march in Washington D.C. against the trials in the Scottsboro case.

Hundreds of demonstrators march in Washington D.C. against the trials in the Scottsboro case.

In the Scottsboro case nine young black men were falsely accused of raping two white women in a freight car.

#63 For Colored, sign atop round Coca-Cola sign tacked to a wooden Star of David in Washington, 1938.

#66 A group of individuals representing the Christian Anti-Jewish Party picketed the White House protesting the recent Supreme court decision against school racial segregation.

#67 Anti-Integration Demonstration, 1954.

Anti-Integration Demonstration, 1954.

Some 2,000 white teenagers carrying posters protesting racial integration march on City Hall shouting in vain for a meeting with Mayor Thomas R. D'Alesandro. A vanguard of about 50 gained entrance into the building but was promptly removed by police.

#69 Group of white men connected to the Willie Earl lynching trial.

Group of white men connected to the Willie Earl lynching trial.

In this case, thirty-one self-admitted members of a lynch mob stood trial accused of murdering 24-year-old black man Willie Earle, congregate outside the Greenville County Courthouse, during the trial in Greenville, South Carolina, May 12-21, 1947.

#70 Flood refugees lined up and waiting for food at a temporary camp for African Americans. Forrest City, Arkansas, February 1937.

#71 Black and white photograph of male, African-American engineers, working in an apparently segregated office, located in Newport News, Virginia, 1936.

#75 African American mother walking with children to distant school re segregation of elementary grade students throughout the state prompting famed legal suit of Brown vs. Board of Education.

Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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