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Jim Crow - a Symbol for Racial Oppression of African Americans

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Many people believed Jim Crow was a person, yet in fact it was an era. This period of time had an impact on the lives of millions of individuals. It was named after a famous song in the 19th century that stereotype African Americans. It also became a set of legal laws in the south. ”Jim Crow” came to be symbolic for racial oppression of African Americans, and white supremacy in the United States. Jim Crow still exists today but to a much lesser degree.During the Reconstruction period of 1865–1877, federal laws provided civil rights protections in the U.S.

South for freedmen, the African Americans who had formerly been slaves, and the minority of blacks who had been free before the war. In the 1870s, Democrats gradually regained power in the Southern legislatures, having used insurgent paramilitary groups, such as the White League and the Red Shirts, to disrupt Republican organizing, run Republican officeholders out of town, and intimidate blacks to suppress their voting. Extensive voter fraud was also used. Gubernatorial elections were close and had been disputed in Louisiana for years, with increasing violence against blacks during campaigns from 1868 onward.

In 1877, a national Democratic Party compromise to gain Southern support in the presidential election resulted in the government’s withdrawing the last of the federal troops from the South. White Democrats had regained political power in every Southern state. These Southern, white, Democratic Redeemer governments legislated Jim Crow laws, officially segregating black people from the white population.Blacks were still elected to local offices throughout the 1880s, but their voting was suppressed for state and national elections. Democrats passed laws to make voter registration and electoral rules more restrictive, with the result that political participation by most blacks and many poor whites began to decrease.

Between 1890 and 1910, ten of the eleven former Confederate states, starting with Mississippi, passed new constitutions or amendments that effectively disenfranchised most blacks and tens of thousands of poor whites through a combination of poll taxes, literacy and comprehension tests, and residency and record-keeping requirements.Grandfather clauses temporarily permitted some illiterate whites to vote but gave no relief to most blacks.Voter turnout dropped drastically through the South as a result of such measures. In Louisiana, by 1900, black voters were reduced to 5,320 on the rolls, although they comprised the majority of the state’s population. By 1910, only 730 blacks were registered, less than 0.5% of eligible black men. “In 27 of the state’s 60 parishes, not a single black voter was registered any longer; in 9 more parishes, only one black voter was.”

The cumulative effect in North Carolina meant that black voters were completely eliminated from voter rolls during the period from 1896–1904. The growth of their thriving middle class was slowed. In North Carolina and other Southern states, blacks suffered from being made invisible in the political system: “Within a decade of disfranchisement, the white supremacy campaign had erased the image of the black middle class from the minds of white North Carolinians.” In Alabama tens of thousands of poor whites were also disenfranchised, although initially legislators had promised them they would not be affected adversely by the new restrictions.Those who could not vote were not eligible to serve on juries and could not run for local offices. They effectively disappeared from political life, as they could not influence the state legislatures, and their interests were overlooked. While public schools had been established by Reconstruction legislatures for the first time in most Southern states, those for black children were consistently underfunded compared to schools for white children, even when considered within the strained finances of the postwar South where the decreasing price of cotton kept the agricultural economy at a low. Like schools, public libraries for blacks were underfunded, if they existed at all, and they were often stocked with secondhand books and other resources.

These facilities were not introduced for African Americans in the South until the first decade of the 20th century.Throughout the Jim Crow era, libraries were only available sporadically. Prior to the 20th century, most libraries established for African Americans were school-library combinations.Many public libraries for both European-American and African American patrons in this period were founded as the result of middle-class activism aided by matching grants from the Carnegie Foundation.In some cases, progressive measures intended to reduce election fraud, such as the Eight Box Law in South Carolina, acted against black and white voters who were illiterate, as they could not follow the directions. While the separation of African Americans from the general population was becoming legalized and formalized during the Progressive Era (1890s–1920s), it was also becoming customary. For instance, even in cases in which Jim Crow laws did not expressly forbid black people to participate in sports or recreation, a segregated culture had become common.

In the Jim Crow context, the presidential election of 1912 was steeply slanted against the interests of black Americans. Most blacks still lived in the South, where they had been effectively disenfranchised, so they could not vote at all. While poll taxes and literacy requirements banned many poor or illiterate Americans from voting, these stipulations frequently had loopholes that exempted European Americans from meeting the requirements. In Oklahoma, for instance, anyone qualified to vote before 1866, or related to someone qualified to vote before 1866 (a kind of “grandfather clause”), was exempted from the literacy requirement;but the only persons who had the franchise before that year were white, or European-American males. European Americans were effectively exempted from the literacy testing, whereas black Americans were effectively singled out by the law.

Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat elected from New Jersey, but he was born and raised in the South, and was the first Southern-born president of the post-Civil War period. He appointed Southerners to his Cabinet. Some quickly began to press for segregated workplaces, although the city of Washington, D.C., and federal offices had been integrated since after the Civil War. In 1913, for instance, Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo – an appointee of the President – was heard to express his opinion of black and white women working together in one government office: “I feel sure that this must go against the grain of the white women. Is there any reason why the white women should not have only white women working across from them on the machines?”

Wilson introduced segregation in federal offices, despite much protest from African-American leaders and national groups. He appointed segregationist Southern politicians because of his own firm belief that racial segregation was in the best interest of black and European Americans alike.[16] At Gettysburg on July 4, 1913, the semi-centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s declaration that “all men are created equal”, Wilson addressed the crowd:How complete the union has become and how dear to all of us, how unquestioned, how benign and majestic, as state after state has been added to this, our great family of free men!In sharp contrast to Wilson, a Washington Bee editorial wondered if the “reunion” of 1913 was a reunion of those who fought for “the extinction of slavery” or a reunion of those who fought to “perpetuate slavery and who are now employing every artifice and argument known to deceit” to present emancipation as a failed venture.

Historian David W. Blight notes that the “Peace Jubilee” at which Wilson presided at Gettysburg in 1913 “was a Jim Crow reunion, and white supremacy might be said to have been the silent, invisible master of ceremonies.”In Texas, several towns adopted residential segregation laws between 1910 and the 1920s. Legal strictures called for segregated water fountains and restrooms. Jim Crow laws were a product of what had become the solidly Democratic South due to disfranchisement of blacks.In January 1964, President Lyndon Johnson met with civil rights leaders. On January 8, during his first State of the Union address, Johnson asked Congress to “let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined.” On June 21, civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney disappeared in Neshoba County, Mississippi, where they were volunteering in the registration of African-American voters as part of the Mississippi Summer Project. The disappearance of the three activists captured national attention and the ensuing outrage was used by Johnson and civil rights activists to build a coalition of northern Democrats and Republicans and push Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On July 2, 1964, Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. It invoked the Commerce Clause to outlaw discrimination in public accommodations (privately owned restaurants, hotels, and stores, and in private schools and workplaces). This use of the Commerce Clause was upheld in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States 379 US 241 (1964).By 1965, efforts to break the grip of state disenfranchisement by education for voter registration in southern counties had been under way for some time, but had achieved only modest success overall. In some areas of the Deep South, white resistance made these efforts almost entirely ineffectual. The murder of the three voting-rights activists in Mississippi in 1964 and the state’s refusal to prosecute the murderers, along with numerous other acts of violence and terrorism against blacks, had gained national attention. Finally, the unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965, by county and state troopers on peaceful Alabama marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge en route from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, persuaded the President and Congress to overcome Southern legislators’ resistance to effective voting rights enforcement legislation. President Johnson issued a call for a strong voting rights law and hearings soon began on the bill that would become the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended legally sanctioned state barriers to voting for all federal, state and local elections. It also provided for federal oversight and monitoring of counties with historically low minority voter turnout. Years of enforcement have been needed to overcome resistance, and additional legal challenges have been made in the courts to ensure the ability of voters to elect candidates of their choice. For instance, many cities and counties introduced at-large election of council members, which resulted in many cases of diluting minority votes and preventing election of minority-supported candidates.Although sometimes counted among “Jim Crow laws” of the South, such statutes as anti-miscegenation laws were also passed by other states. Anti-miscegenation laws were not repealed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but were declared unconstitutional by the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia.

In conclusion Jim Crow had an impact on the lives of millions of individuals. It came to be symbolic for racial oppression of African Americans, and white supremacy in the United States. There were many ways whites tried to redeem their southern pride and try to keep African Americans down in society, but African Americans used many methods to fight back. Unfortunately the Jim Crow feeling still exists today but not nearly the intensity as it used to.

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Jim Crow – a Symbol for Racial Oppression of African Americans. (2019, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/jim-crow-a-symbol-for-racial-oppression-of-african-americans/
“Jim Crow – a Symbol for Racial Oppression of African Americans.” GradesFixer, 11 Feb. 2019, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/jim-crow-a-symbol-for-racial-oppression-of-african-americans/
Jim Crow – a Symbol for Racial Oppression of African Americans. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/jim-crow-a-symbol-for-racial-oppression-of-african-americans/> [Accessed 26 Oct. 2020].
Jim Crow – a Symbol for Racial Oppression of African Americans [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Feb 11 [cited 2020 Oct 26]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/jim-crow-a-symbol-for-racial-oppression-of-african-americans/
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