Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2004
The rotten Apple
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Jim Crow laws were named for an ante-bellum mistral show character. The minstrel show is one of the first indigenous forms of American entertainment.

The tradition began in February 1843 when a group of four white men from Virginia, billed as the "Virgina Minstrels", applied black cork to their faces and performed a song-and-dance act in a small hall in New York City. The performance was such a success that the group was invited to tour to other cities and imitators sprang up immediately. These troups were successors to individual performers who imitated Negro singing and dancing. One of the earliest and most successful individual performers was Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice.

Rice, a white actor, was inspired by an elderly Negro in Louisville, Kentucky crooning and dancing to a song that ended with the same chorus:

"Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb'ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow."

Rice's imitation of the Negro's song and dance routine took him from Louisville to Cincinnati to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and finally to New York City in 1832.

Jim Crow laws, named for the minstrel show character, were late-19th-century statutes passed by the legislatures of the Southern states that created a racial caste system in the American South.

After the Reconstruction years, blacks and whites often rode together in the same railway cars, ate in the same restaurants, used the same public facilities, but did not often interact as equals. The emergence of large black communities in urban areas and of a significant black labor force in factories presented a new challenge to white Southerners. They could not control these new communities in the same informal ways they had been able to control rural blacks, who were more directly dependent on white landowners and merchants than their urban counterparts. In the city, blacks and whites were in more direct competition than they had been in the countryside. There was more danger of social mixing. The city, therefore, required different, and more rigidly institutionalized, systems of control. The Jim Crow laws were a response to a new reality that required white supremacy to move to where it would have a rigid legal and institutional basis to retain control over the black population. What had shifted was not their commitment to white supremacy but the things necessary to preserve it.

In 1883, The U.S. Supreme Court began to strike down the foundations of the post-Civil War Reconstructin, declaring the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional. The Court also ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited state governments from discriminating against people because of race but did not restrict private organizations or individuals from doing so. Thus railroads, hotels, theaters, and the like could legally practice segregation. Eventually, the Court also validated state legislation that discriminated against blacks. In 1896 it legitimized the principle of "separate but equal" in its ruling Plessy v. Ferguson. The Court held that separate accommodations did not deprive blacks of equal rights if the accommodations were equal. In 1899, the Court went even further declaring in Cumming v. County Board of Education: Laws establishing separate schools for whites were valid even if they provided no comparable schools for blacks.

The high court rulings led to a profusion of Jim Crow laws. By 1914 every Southern state had passed laws that created two separate societies; one black, the other white. Blacks and whites could not ride together in the same railroad cars, sit in the same waiting rooms, use the same washrooms, eat in the same restaurants, or sit in the same theaters. Blacks were denied access to parks, beaches, and picnic areas; they were barred from many hospitals. What had been maintained by custom in the rural South was to be maintained by law in the urban South.

Starting in 1915, victories in the Supreme Court began to chip away at the Jim Crow Laws. In Guinn v. United States (1915), the Supreme Court supported the position that a statute in Oklahoma law dening the right to vote to any citizen whose ancestors had not been enfranchised in 1860 (grandfather clause) was unconstitutional. In Buchanan v. Worley(1917), the Court struck down a Louisville, Kentucky, law requiring residential segregation.

The first major blow against the Jim Crow system of racial segregation was struck in 1954 by the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which declared segregation in the public schools unconstitutional.

This began what is known as the "Civil Rights Movement" and began the end of the Jim Crow Laws.

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