Historical Development on Jim Crow Law's (1880 to 1900)

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Historical Development on Jim Crow Law’s (1880 to 1900)

During the 1880’s, American race relations reached their rock-bottom as whites sought ways to dominate the blacks on every front in the country. This spanned from school segregation to disenfranchisement. Such domination saw the rise of the Jim Crow system, a system that was adopted from a song-and-dance routine that aped an old, crippled slave named James Crow (Kousser 479). By 1838, the term Jim Crow became associated with the black community and by the late nineteenth century, whites in the South used the term to refer to a system of racial discrimination and segregation, meant to subjugate African Americans. Therefore, the Jim Crow Laws were ordinances and statutes that were set up between 1874 and 1975 to segregate black races from the whites.

The laws were meant to create separate but equal treatment for blacks but in reality the worst happened whereby blacks were condemned to inferior facilities and treatment. The system started with states passing legislation to segregate education and public facilities, such as restaurants, theatres, asylums, dance halls, parks, trains, restrooms, cemeteries and hotels (Kousser 480). In 1865 and the following year, state governments in the South legislated on regulations of the lives of former slaves as revisions of formers slave codes and differed from state to state. The codes stipulated that employment would only be availed to the freedmen with any violations leading to vagrancy charges. Moreover, race started being defined by blood therefore anyone with a trace of black blood become absolutely black.

The laws also restricted freedmen from being taught to read and write, freedmen were presumed agricultural workers with a tight regulation of their hours and duties (Roback 1170). Further, the freedmen were prohibited from assembly without the presence of a white person. In addition, all public facilities became segregated and if anyone violated any of the rules they became subject to branding and whipping. This took slavery to new levels since the whites controlled everything in America, from banks, land to major businesses thereby imposing economic blackmail through issuing of threats of economic assistance and withholding of jobs to manipulate the black vote (George 127). 

In 1870, Tennessee became the first state to effect the Jim Crow laws by prohibiting marriages between different races. Blacks became disenfranchised albeit gradually by use of violence, bribery and intimidation especially in politics. There were many black voters by 1877, but in 1890 the State of Mississippi used a literacy test to disenfranchise African-Americans through an interpretation of the state constitution. White primary and the grandfather clause were also applied as legal methods, while extralegal methods included terror and violence (McMillen 173). 

In 1896, the Supreme Court established the separate but equal standard in Plessy v. Ferguson thereby providing segregation high judicial support (Schmidt 445). However, by 1886 blacks had started forming unions and affiliations to counter the Jim Craw Laws with some whites supporting them thereby making the black vote fundamental in some elections. This led to elimination of black suffrage by the Democrats though mass lynching was happening, for instance in 1892, 161 African-Americans in the South, a number that rose to 3,446 in the subsequent years.

The laws saw mass migration by blacks out of the South though leaders, such as Frederick Douglass convinced the blacks that their only salvation did not lie in migrating but in fighting for their citizenship rights. Around 1890, blacks migrated to Oklahoma while more blacks migrated to the West to become cowboys. In addition, more free blacks and slaves consolidated their support against racism.


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