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The Meaning And Peculiarities Of Jim Crow Laws

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The Jim Crow Laws had a lifelong impact for African-Americans and other races as it would change the history of the nation and its people. The Jim Crow Laws was a time of white dominance in the South as whites had many rights while other races had few rights. This meant that all races were completely separated from the whites as the laws would leave a tight grip on them. The laws were enforced as a white person with some African-American roots named Homer Plessy lost a court case for his freedom and his race in 1896 (Plessy v. Ferguson). The negroes, who were previously slaves, were being segregated because of their race and color. The Jim Crow Laws got their name from an African-American character from a plantation in 1832 known as Jim Crow, lasted until 1965, and resulted in years of violence and protests in the nation.

The fictional character, Jim Crow, was created in 1832 by a northerner known as Thomas Dartmouth Rice. Thomas Dartmouth Rice, a white man also known as “Daddy Rice”, was a playwrighter for entertainment and his most famous play is known as Jump Jim Crow, where it would imitate an African-American man. Rice was born in 1808 and his talent for many years would be acting as he performed in theaters in his city and even in England, a country in Europe that previously had tensions with the United States in the 1770s to the 1810s. “Jump Jim Crow” was created as it would be a satire to the policies of then President Andrew Jackson (Yenerall). The play became a major hit in the nation as the play, Jim Crow, was known for the rise of theathers and plays in the nation. It became so popular that many states and people in the South adopted the name “Jim Crow” to resemble the blacks as character Jim Crow was resembled as an African-American (Sonneborn). The reason for Rice’s success was because of the topic regarding African-Americans, a sensitive topic for the nation as Northerners opposed slavery while the South endorses it. However, Rice’s popularity would end as an illness in the 1840s caused him to quit his career and Rice passed away in 1860 at his birth place, New York City (Yenerall).

The Jim Crow Laws followed after the Civil War, a time where Northerners and Southerners fight from 1861 to 1865 over the issue of slavery. Even with victory for the North, there will come new challenges for the recently united nation in the period of Reconstruction, a time of rebuilding. This period would leave many things untouched as most Northerners in the end start to lose their intrests of a post-war America. One of the plans were to give equal rights for the negroes, who were previously slaves in pre-Civil War. After many southerners heard of this plan, they enforced Black Codes, which would keep a tight grip towards the previous slaves as a way for them to not escape. Unstable Presidents in this era, Grant and Johnson, was a major factor on the end of Reconstruction, leading for little changes in the era (Sonneborn). In 1896, the Jim Crow Laws became official after the outcome of court case Plessy v. Ferguson, which determined the outcome of the laws: separate but equal (Plessy v. Ferguson). The laws were put into effect everywhere in the South and several examples of the laws is the separation of schools and the prohibition of communicating from other races. If anyone were caught breaking the laws, he or she would be imprisoned or be fined.

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After African-Americans were discriminated by the Jim Crow Laws for a long time, many people decide to go against the laws, with changes being made so that the laws would fade. The 1950s and the 1960s is a major change for the race as in this time, there will be more victories than defeats. The first approach to this was by President Truman, a democratic president that outlawed discrimination in the nation’s military after World War II. During President Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, changes were being made at a faster pace as an example would be the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeoka in 1954, which outlawed segregation in schools and other learning centers. In 1955, Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was arrested for refusing to give up bus her seat to a white person. This would lead to the rise of Martin Luther King Jr., the most famous political fighter in this era as he lead boycotts and protests after the arrest. Taking influence from famous political rights fighter Gandhi, King would use non-violent ways to achieve his goal. President Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1965 would work to eradicate the laws, even if they received backlash from their political party, Democrats. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Civil Rights Era of 1964, which would ban discrimination towards all people (Dorrance). The year after that, the Voting Rights Act was passed, leading to everyone being able to vote, which effectively ended the Jim Crow Laws (Yenerall).

Homer Plessy, a white male who is one-eigth African-American, challenged the Jim Crow Laws in 1896 at the Supreme Court. 4 years ago, Plessy was arrested for resisting to give his train seat to a white person after detectives revealed that he was one-eigth African-American (Plessy v. Ferguson). With his arrest, Plessy takes his situation to the Supreme Court as he believes discriminating towards any race violates the nation’s constitution (Sonneborn). However, the results ended up in a disaster because Plessy would lose his case and it would continue the discrimination of his race. The judge at this court case, John Marshall Harlan agreed that the Constitution gave freedom and equality to the African-Americans but argued that the Constiution did not give social equality. Harlan also states that the Dred Scott Case in 1857 made it officialy that African-Americans are not citizens of the nation because their descendents have previously came from Africa, making them as slaves, not citizens (Plessy v. Ferguson). Ferguson, the lawyer going against Plessy in their state of Louisiana, also agrees to the decisions made by the judge.

“It was said that the act of a mere individual, the owner of an inn, a public conveyance or place or amusement, refusing accommodations to colored people, cannot be in justly regarded as imposing any badge of slavery or servitude upon the applicant, but only as involving an ordinary civil injury, properly cognizable by the laws of the state, and presumably subject to redress by those laws until the contrary appears.” (Plessy v. Ferguson, 109 U.S. 3, 3 Sup. Ct.) In this statement, Ferguson states that freedom for the African-Americans depend on each state as he focuses on popular sovereignty for each state to decide whether the laws will be in effect. He argues that refusing to give equality to the negroes is not slavery nor is it indentured servant labor but forced by the state law (Plessy v. Ferguson).

The Jim Crow Laws were adopted in 1832, lasted until 1965, and was a time of violence and protests in the nation. The Jim Crow Laws adopted the name from a fictional character named Jim Crow, which a white Northerner named Thomas Dartmouth Rice acted and impersonated African-Americans on their culture and heritage (Sonneborn). “Jump Jim Crow,” the play, received fame in the 1830s as many people liked Dartmouth’s acting, with many people to use the name as a racial slur. The play was created when President Andrew Jackson led America, who had pro-slavery views as he was part of the Democratic Party. Even with 70 years of the law, many significant people like presidents of the nation, made many laws to fight against segregation by enforcing more secure laws (Dorrance). In 1965, the discriminatory law would be eradictated under President Lyndon B. Johnson, who made the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Although the Jim Crow Laws would no longer be into effect, discrimination in some states and prejudice would still continue until 1968 (Sonneborn). Overall, the Jim Crow Laws would change the United States permeanately by giving new promises for all races and nationalities in the nation.

Works Cited

  1. Dorrance, Thomas F. “Race Relations and Conflict in the 20th Century.” Race Relations in U.S. History, Facts On File, 2018. History, &itemid=WE52&articleId=358196. Accessed 14 Mar. 2019.
  2. “Lemon Swamp and Other Places Excerpt.” History, Facts On File, Index?aid=105958&itemid=WE52&primarySourceId=13451. Accessed 8 Mar. 2019.
  3. “Plessy v. Ferguson.” History, Facts On File, Accessed 6 Mar. 2019.
  4. Purdy, Elizabeth. “African Americans in the Civil Rights Era.” The African Americans, Second Edition, Facts On File, 2017. History, &itemid=WE52&articleId=406867. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.
  5. Sonneborn, Liz. “Post-Civil War and Reconstruction.” The Great Black Migrations, Updated Edition, Chelsea House, 2017. History, &itemid=WE52&articleId=397321. Accessed 8 Mar. 2019.
  6. Yenerall, Kevan M. “Jim Crow Laws.” Encyclopedia of American Government and Civics, Second Edition, Facts On File, 2017. History, Accessed 6 Mar. 2019.

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