The Jim Crow South

whitesonlyExamples of Jim Crow laws

From the 1880s into the 1960s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through “Jim Crow” laws (so called after a black character in minstrel shows). From Delaware to California, and from North Dakota to Texas, many states (and cities, too) could impose legal punishments on people for consorting with members of another race. The most common types of laws forbade intermarriage and ordered business owners and public institutions to keep their black and white clientele separated. Here is a sampling of laws from various states.

 Nurses: No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which negro men are placed. Alabama

Intermarriage: The marriage of a person of Caucasian blood with a Negro, Mongolian, Malay, or Hindu shall be null and void. Arizona

Education: The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately. Florida

Burial: The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons. Georgia

Housing: Any person…who shall rent any part of any such building to a negro person or a negro family when such building is already in whole or in part in occupancy by a white person or white family, or vice versa when the building is in occupancy by a negro person or negro family, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five ($25.00) nor more than one hundred ($100.00) dollars or be imprisoned not less than 10, or more than 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. Louisiana

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Theaters: Every person…operating…any public hall, theater, opera house, motion picture show or any place of public entertainment or public assemblage which is attended by both white and colored persons, shall separate the white race and the colored race and shall set apart and designate…certain seats therein to be occupied by white persons and a portion thereof , or certain seats therein, to be occupied by colored persons. Virginia Colored Only

Restaurants: It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance  the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama                                         from http://www.jacksonsun.com

January 20, this year, is the national holiday for the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  birthday.  He was the civil rights leader in the 1960s who worked tirelessly in the style of Mahatma Gandhi using  non-violence to get these laws repealed and ensure that  Jefferson’s tenet of “all men are created equal” was the law of the land for all. PH2007122101527 He was a minister of Christ who wanted change but not violent change. He lead sit-ins, and marches to drew the light to the injustice of  these situations, especially in the southern United States. 1963pic

The local police were not “non-violent” bringing dogs and fire hoses  to the marches. 12firehouse-against-demonstratorspreview1336059900675

This was  the day I would share with my classes  memories of  growing up in the Jim Crow South in Virginia.  I was and am a primary source of the times. One of the pivotal points was Rosa Parks , an African American women, who refused to give up her seat for a white man. Mrs. Parks was a maid who had worked cleaning for a white family all day and was exhausted.  She was arrested for her disobedience and  became an instant  hero in the Civil Rights Movement.  The law stated that people of color must sit in the back of the bus and if a white person needed a seat , the Negroes would have to stand. Mrs. Parks  said her money was as good as the white man’s and refused to give him her seat.

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 “The Help” is a pretty true depiction of what  my life was like growing up. My family had “help” cleaning and cooking.  The cook was unable to read but she made wonderful fried chicken and other traditional southern dishes.  When I saw the film, I was horrified with the bathroom addition, for “the help” and  remembered that our house had a bathroom in the basement for the help to use!  I wept to see my life in the film from the point of view of the Black American women who did the work in the southern homes. We, my family,  were not unkind  to these women, they were part of our family except there were boundaries, I didn’t notice as a little girl. They ate in the kitchen and had their own bathroom. I saw the  separate signs in Staunton  over water fountains, and at bathroom doors, went to the movies where “we” sat downstairs and the Negroes were in the balcony .

Gertie, one of the maids,  had been the nursemaid for all the families in my  Mama’s family. . . . . a nurse for the new babies. I was her last baby and my family kept her on.   She had no family and continued coming to work in our house until she died. My Daddy paid for her hospital and funeral bills. We were her family at her funeral services.  Mary, the other maid,  came to do the work that Gertie was unable to do as she grew older.  Gertie  was an honored guest at my wedding. I think she knew we loved her. 

I was a product of  segregated Virginia public schools.  It takes a long time to change hearts and minds. My husband lived in Maryland, and those schools were integrated immediately.  Virginia insisted that all  the schools were equal.  “Separate but   equal” but were they ?  Of course not!  I graduated 10 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, when  the Supreme Court  ruled  full integration in  public schools.  In Maryland,  integration happened immediately, but not in Virginia.  I graduated without ever having a black teacher or student in my school. 

 

I remember one of the last classes I taught in Arizona, and the reaction to my tales about Jim Crow.  They were horrified and insisted that it wasn’t true. They thought it was one of my “tales”.  From their life and perspective it was  an impossible situation.  I assured them that we have made lots of progress if they felt  that way, but we must never forget.

It was just the way it was when I was growing up . . . . . not an excuse but a reason.  There is no excuse for this inhumanity that was fostered onto other humanity.  In the words chiseled into a stone table at Dachau Concentration Camp in Munich, it must happen  “Never Again.”

About annetbell

I am a retired elementary teacher, well seasoned world traveler,new blogger, grandmother, and a new enthusiastic discoverer of the wonderfully complex country of India. Anne
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41 Responses to The Jim Crow South

  1. sknicholls says:

    I have spoken to other from places like Chicago and NY or NJ that also don’t believe it was true. They don’t want to see what their own minds did not know to be true, but it was all very true. I had black children in my school after the fifth grade, but the city swimming pool, and other places remained segregated long after. Those are some of the reasons that I was compelled to write my book.

    • annetbell says:

      Thank you for your comment. Is your book Red Clay and Roses available on Kindle?

      • sknicholls says:

        It is, and paperback. I recall always having a black nanny. I loved her more than I could love my own mother.

      • annetbell says:

        Yes, often Southern women were very little involved with raising their children. It is sad. Things have changed a lot. Where are you from?

      • sknicholls says:

        Georgia originally, Father’s family came from Virginia and North Carolina. Mother’s family came from Virginia and South Carolina. I live in Florida now. After my mother’s death, I was in foster care and then a children’s group home, so I was raised by many with many “siblings” and parents from different cultures. Many different influences. missionaries from all over the world came to The Harpst Home to tell of their travels.

      • annetbell says:

        An amazing story…..fuel for another book?

        There is also another wonderful lady here in New York who write historical fiction. She has a post-Civil War novel. Do you know here?
        http://middlemaybooks.com/

      • sknicholls says:

        I don’t know her, but thanks for the introduction. I write in later eras. I have an autobiography of sorts planned after this WIP. I am sort of following Hannah’s family members in developing a bit of a saga. Hannah will, at some point, have to tell her own story.

  2. lauramacky says:

    I loved the book, The Help. The movie was okay but I liked the book better (what else is new?).

  3. It’s impossible to believe that this could ever have happened now, even though there is so much information out there proving it to be true. Watching The Help broke my heart, thank goodness people (most of them anyway) are now enlightened x

  4. Dalo 2013 says:

    This is so truly unbelievable…yet it really was just “yesterday” that there was so much craziness. Hopefully humankind continues to evolve and we truly become global in view and tolerances. Nice post Anne.

    • annetbell says:

      Thanks for the comment. The 60s was a horrible decade starting with Pres. Kennedy’s assassination. . . the end of innocence here. Then Civil Rights movement and resistance at home, the Viet Nam War and all its horrors, riots and burning in the cities, MLK’s and Robert Kennedy’s assassination…..the hippie movement of drugs, sex and rock and roll! There are more events that turned us upside down in the US!

  5. I’ve seen a movie that is almost similar to narrate an event like this, where the separation between whites and blacks going on, but I think it’s just a story and not in the real world because I never go where true that the incident indeed there.

  6. Don Ostertag says:

    As a young soldier from Minnesota, I really got my eyes opened stationed in the South in the late 50’s. I was at a school in Ft Gordon, Georgia, I had to go to the Augusta Court House. On a wall was a huge plaque of the Declaration of Independence embossed on it. ‘ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.’ On the same wall were two drinking fountains, a sign over one read ‘WHITES’. The other had a sign that said ‘Coloreds’. Welcome to the world of Jim Crow!

    • annetbell says:

      I wonder if The Help was the movie you saw. It was a terrible time, and looking back that it was just the way it was. Horrifying. So the Indians and their continuing caste system is not unexpected. . It is against the law to have castes now, but it continues as minds and hearts are hard to change! Thanks for the comment! If you have questions. . . ask!

    • annetbell says:

      Beautifully recounted! I am sure it was a shock to you , but just everyday living for me! Have you seen the Jackie Robinson Story about the first African American who played in the Major Leagues of baseball? If not, I think you would like it. Not sure of the title. . . .

      • Don Ostertag says:

        The last Jackie Robinson movie was called 42, the number he wore and then it was retired for all of major league baseball. The first movie, The Jackie Robinson Story, made in 1950 starred Jackie Robinson himself. He was one of my favorite ballplayer when I was growing up.

      • annetbell says:

        Oh dear….it is 42….I loved that film though I can’t abide baseball….too slow for me. He was an amazing human being as well as ball player! So glad you have seen it!

  7. Ana Perry says:

    i am just old enough to remember some of this…still unnerves me

    • annetbell says:

      Yes, it is scary and it has not ended. We must be diligent in speaking out against this.

      • Ana Perry says:

        I’ve talked to family in GA and attitudes are changing, somewhat. But I was in MS a couple years ago working and I noticed in all the courthouses I visited the offices were clearly segregated. I’m afraid it wont change enough until my generation and perhaps my daughters generation are gone.

      • annetbell says:

        The Help was set in MS. I imagine there is still problems down there. My husband was interviewing for job in Atlanta. I went , too to check out schools . I was not pleasantly surprised at pages of schools

      • annetbell says:

        Oops ! Pages of private schools started to continue segregation. I
        Didn’t want that at all. The people at university could tell from the name of the school. I think this won ‘t change until at least a couple of generations.

  8. Kev says:

    Yes, it reminds me of reading, “Black Like Me” in Uni. I never once entertained the idea that there was any difference between black and white, but it all become too clear when I moved to the states in the mid-80s…it was still all too real. There was never mention of it in England when I was growing up. I think that owes it to the fact we abolished slaver a century before they did in America…yet today, you hear more about it here also…it’s as if racial prejudice is being re-awakened. I don’t understand it. We should be moving forward, not backwards.

    • annetbell says:

      I know of that book but never read it. People can be so unkind to other people who are not like them. In India, there is a law outlawing “Untouchable caste” but it is still evident. I hear of white supremacy raising its ugle head in Germany and Austria…..that is very scary and I know there are some in the US. Lord have mercy on us all!

  9. We have achieved integration without achieving equality or ending hatred. Perhaps I am hoping for too much. But race hatred, anti-Semitism — and every other form of bigotry is alive and well, if less flagrant. We just can’t seem to stop hating each other.

    • annetbell says:

      You are right, of course. When we moved to NY years ago, I couldn’t believe the feeling of hatred toward different races. And just look at the whole world. Sadly , changing hearts and minds takes a real change, and it seems to be very slow going. Thanks for the comment.

  10. spicyessence says:

    Thank you for sharing this with me! I visited India 4 years ago and when we were in my fathers town I saw that there were two churches, one on the top of a hill and the second on the bottom. The one on the bottom was for the “untouchables” and I just couldn’t understand that this type of scenario still existed!

    After moving in Kuwait, I see how horrible the labor staff/maids/porters are treated and it just breaks my heart! I wish laws were stricter and enforced instead of just ignored.

    • annetbell says:

      Bless your heart ! It it horrible to see if you have a tender heart! Hopefully things will change . Hearts and minds seem to take a long time to change. Thanks for sharing !

  11. jazzytower says:

    This superiority complex that inflict inhumane treatment on a fellow human being baffles me. I just don’t get it. Man’s inhumanity to man. Senseless.

  12. Pingback: Staunton’s “Other Park” | TalesAlongTheWay

  13. annetbell says:

    Reblogged this on TalesAlongTheWay and commented:

    This is the sad story of the “old South” in the United States. Much of it is my story growing up in Virginia. It will be an unbelievable story for many of you. Please let me know if you have questions.

  14. Bill On The Fylde says:

    It’s interesting that you finish this with a quote from a European, 20th century concentration camp as it reminds us how prevalent racism and race laws have been right across predominantly white dominated countries. Thankfully through right minded people like Dr Martin Luther King and education this type of ignorance is less prevalent in our world today. Unfortunately it is still there but we have come a long way and we must always speak up wherever we encounter prejudice and ignorance.

    • annetbell says:

      Dear not so lazy Bill ! Thanks for reading this ever so long post. Great points you included. Indeed, the last reference was in my mind a reference that would be familiar to people everywhere, even people with no personal experience in the south. You are absolutely correct to point out that there is evil on the earth , in the past and continues today. Yes, we need to do our best to stand against it. Many thanks! Anne

  15. Don Ostertag says:

    I spent 2 years in the south in the late 50’s. Terrible memories. I will always see that wall in the Augusta government building. The Declaration of Independence and right below it, two drinking fountains, WHITES ONLY, the other one COLOREDS.

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